I believe critics must be vigilant, diligent, and hold to a higher standard. Spider-Man and Doctor Octopus are fighting atop a moving train. Spider-Man gets the upper-hand. Ock, using his mechanical arms, rips into the railcar and starts throwing civilians. What's Spidey do? The easy thing would be to ignore the people (casualties of war) and seize the momentum to knock Ock out and take him to jail. But Spider-Man saves the people. This "heroism" demands more effort, more time, and creates a myriad of difficulties in fighting villains because they know how to manipulate the hero, but it's what Peter Parker considers the right thing to do.
When I see a major critic...slacking...I'm annoyed. 1. They're being paid. 2. I don't think they're being constructive. 3. Or enlightening. 4. As an artist myself, I know what it feels like when someone takes you to court for crimes you didn't commit, tries you before your peers, finds you guilty on circumstantial evidence, then beats you with a shovel, all the while you're saying "you freaking idiot, you're just not getting it!"
Most of the time, I leave the critic alone. I'll write my review and do my best to keep to the standards I believe in.
But sometimes the critic is so...wrong. I have no choice.
(And I don't mean they're wrong about the movie. I might agree with their points. But how they're making them...less effort, less time, less difficulty...And while civilian lives may not be at risk, there are people who look to these critics as guides. Which brings me to "reason I'm annoyed" number 5: critics do influence people, and some girl or guy who might love a movie may not see it because of one wrong review. And that is a loss.).
Director: Jon Favreau
James Bond: Daniel Craig
Dolarhyde: Harrison Ford
Ella: Olivia Wilde
Who You May Not Notice: Sam Rockwell
Amused Me Because I Have No Idea How He Chooses His Roles: Paul Dano
Others: Adam Beach, Raoul Trujillo
RIP: David Carradine
(you can read Orr's full review here: http://www.theatlantic.com/entertainment/archive/2011/07/cowboys-aliens-mess/242719/weeblylink_new_window)
(I posted what follows in the comments section of Orr's review on The Atlantic website. The sentences in quotes are from Orr's review.)
A majority of your review is self-righteous subjectivity. These are your opinions of the film. Nothing more. Yet you treat them as fact. What you say you back up with more subjectivity, in all but a few cases.
"On their journey, they will be assaulted by aliens, by highwaymen, by Indians, and by draining bouts of narrative inertia."
This is what I'm talking about. You make an opinionated statement without attributing it to yourself (masked objectivity). Other people might think the narrative flows right along. Just because you don't doesn't mean it doesn't. I think it's a critic's responsibility to back up one's points and to be clear about subjectivity and objectivity (notice: I didn't say "It is a critic's responsibility") . You don't cite examples of narrative activeness and show how C&A fails to do this. You don't make an argument.
"No one exhibits much interest in examining the downed pod, however, least of all the resolutely incurious script."
You're ignoring the fact that as the townsfolk encircle the ship to begin exploring it they hear, from a nearby house, clamor, screams, a beastly roar. They approach the house, instead. Blood spatters the window and we see a large creature flee. The next "step" is to follow the Alien. So we jump to the next morning and the "hunt". Maybe, during the night, people did study the ship? But the script is concerned with the Action and the Adventure, not the science and thought. I'm not saying they couldn't have added a minute long scene showing someone interacting with the ship. But is it necessary to this type of movie? I don't think so.
And really, what would you have wanted out of the scene? For them to look at it, try to fly it, to try the weapons and fail? Could it have been a comedic opportunity? Would you have had them be successful? And then Craig gets into a dog fight above New Mexico.
You condemn the script for not analyzing the ship. So what would you have done differently?
"Ford’s Dolarhyde is particularly schizophrenic, alternating on an almost scene-by-scene basis between apparent Bad Guy and presumed Good Guy."
Do you exist in the Real World? People are not one note. They don't need to have a "progression" to display different aspects of their personalities. Who is to say that Donald Trump is the same man at home that he is in the business world? One theme of the movie is a greater situation trumping existing feuds. For example: the cowboys team up with the indians (a cliche rivalry) to fight the aliens. Another example: Harrison Ford is a devil to his employees and towards the law, but when his son is taken by the aliens he is less confrontational to the people around him. Would you be the same man you are in your daily routine if all the sudden aliens showed up and grabbed your kid? I doubt it. Could the film have portrayed the aspects of character in a more revealing, dramatic way? Sure. But that's why it won't get nominated for an Oscar for Best Screenplay. Is it COMPLETELY UNBELIEVABLE that Ford's character isn't a jackass the entire time? No. Calm down, Mr. Orr.
"There is, however, reason for hope. Orci and Kurtzman have written (and the latter directed) a small film called Welcome to People, scheduled for release next year. The movie is a drama about a man delivering an inheritance from his deceased father to a sister he has never met. It contains, as best I can tell, no robots or aliens or spies or cowboys. Let us all hope that it is a good film, and a great success—one that offers Orci, Kurtzman, and the moviegoing public an escape from the storytelling black hole into which we all seem to have fallen."
Storytelling black hole into which we all seem to have fallen? Climb out of your melodramatic swamp, please. You're acting like this is the first year bad movies have ever been made. And it sounds like you're saying "Cowboys & Aliens", "Stark Trek", "Transformers" and "MI: 3" were demeaning to Orci and Kurtzman. Like since the robots and aliens and spies and cowboys are out of the way, O&K can finally churn out a good story. Like, "Now that all that garbage is gone, and there's only real people, we can see an actual movie." Imagination doesn't kill stories, writers kill stories. Orci and Kurtzman are okay writers. But I wouldn't blame Optimus for their weaknesses.
(And I get your use of "black hole" refers back to the Star Trek quip in the middle of the review. But, still, it's melodramatic.)
You did a good job of explaining Orci and Kurtzman's "attack on narrative clarity and coherence." Also the non- and counter-sequiturs and "concept of character" paragraphs. Even if I don't agree with everything you said. You argued well.
"Early in their journey, the gang comes across a massive paddle-wheeler dumped upside-down in the Southwestern desert, “500 miles away” from any river big enough for it to have traveled. One might guess that at some subsequent point in the film we’d be offered an explanation for what the aliens did to the boat and why, or some hint that the aliens had even been 500 miles away. But no, their incursion seems aggressively local, and the paddle-boat remains a set design in search of a rationale."
Again, you're getting caught up in terms of story "rules". If X randomly appears in the film, X needs explaining. As a witness to the contrary, I again call to the stand: reality. Many things in life go unexplained. Why? Because we live life as restricted narrators. We're not omniscient. Likewise, C&A is told in the restrictive narrative. Obviously, you had problems with this. There are possible explanations to the boat. Like: the aliens started elsewhere and only recently moved near Absolution. Or, they have gold scanners and the paddle-wheeler might have been a casino, or at least a "luxury liner", everything gilded and gold watches and gold objects and in the kitchen AU bouillon, so out the planes swooped. So the boat is left a mystery. That's fine by me.
What I don't think "fine" is the aliens having no problem in the daylight. Like you said, we're told they build underground because they don't do well in sunlight. Then, during the battle, they're apparently unhindered. It's an oversight by the filmmakers, or Wilde was wrong, or the creatures really were compromised and that's why they didn't absolutely slaughter all the humans. I don't believe the humans survived as long as they did. With six-shooters and arrows? And how many murderous aliens were they fighting? I didn't buy that scene, not how it was set-up.
"Ford’s performance is disappointingly overcooked: Instead of revealing a quiet core of malice—it should, after all, be less work to be a villain than a hero—he snarls and growls his way through the role."
I don't think there's a certain way a character should act. The film doesn't "reveal a quiet core of malice" because Ford doesn't have a quite core of malice. He outwardly growls and snarls and sometimes shows his sappy heart. That's who he is, so that's who he is. And I don't know if you were paying attention to the movie, but...Ford isn't the villain. The aliens are the villains. And they work easily enough.
"But this redemptive theme is so underdeveloped that it comes across primarily as excuse-making. Why not just name the town Narrative Incoherence and be done with it?"
Har, har, har.
Did I Like It:
Yeah. It won't make my top 25 or anything. But I was glad I saw it, wasn't unhappy about paying for a ticket. Almost everyone is praising Craig. He was cool. It made me want to watch Casino Royale.
There were some goofy moments that probably weren't intentionally funny but made me laugh. There was no moment I thought "that was awesome!" But many nods of approval.
I should watch it again, but I felt there were more medium shots and long shots than close-ups and medium close-ups. If you're unfamiliar with film terms:
extreme long shot = like a view of a city or a crowd
long shot = shot where you can see a person from head to toe.
medium shot = knees/thighs to head.
medium close-up = chest to head
close-up = face
extreme close-up = an eye (for example)
I hate films that overuse medium close-ups and close-ups. Like Tomorrow Never Dies. I don't think either of those shots take skill. They can be used well. And there's a time for them. But I don't think they should dominate any movie.
What It's Good For:
-fans of Ford or Craig
-catching a glimpse of Paul Dano
-making cowboy, Indian, alien fantasies celluloid reality
-nothing really breakthrough or breathtaking
-not the strongest plot ever
-some cliche moments
-I really don't think the humans could have held out in the giant battle scene, I think they would have all been slaughtered
% Character / % Actor's personality or previous roles
Daniel Craig being cool: Layer Cake, Casino Royale,
Olivia Wilde: Tron: Legacy
Harrison Ford: Blade Runner
My favorite Alien movie: Predator