Cowboys and Aliens is an absurdist pastiche of overused action movie tropes (Bourne in the old west! With aliens!), which is occasionally compelling, if only for the sheer audacity of plot choices. That is to say, it’s ridiculous. And I’m a big fan of the ridiculous (see also: Lieutenant, Bad; Werner Herzog version of). I just wish Cowboys and Aliens‘ preposterousness wasn’t so couched in pre-fabricated stories and characters. It’s a lot like Lost, but even black smoke monsters and polar bears seemed more fresh than Cowboys, Indians, aliens, rocket hands, and amnesia. It plays like a producer brainstorming session that never got edited, which makes it all the more shocking that no one turns out to be a vampire or a hot cyborg lesbian (spoiler alert).
It’s hard to believe Lost exec producer Damon Lindelof had five co-writers, because the whole thing reeks of black smoke musk, from the character daddy issues driving every single plot point right down to the fat-faced kid with a dog who seems totally unnecessary to the plot. I imagine the writers meeting went something like this:
Alex Kurtzman: Cowboys!
Robert Orci: Indians! Aliens! James Bond! Indiana Jones–
Steve Oedekirk: (*loud gurgle, extended fart sound followed by terrible stench. the rest of the gang rolls his wheelchair outside before continuing*)
Lindelof: Amnesia! Religious themes! Re-incarnation–
Iron Man writers Mark Fergus and Hawk Ostby: [together] ROCKET HANDS! (*they smash their beer steins together, down the rest, and stomp off like the Bushwhackers*)