Review: Cowboys and Aliens

Spoiler Free Summary: Read the Title. Seriously, there are cowboys, and they fight aliens in the old west. James bond is a bandit with amnesia and Indiana Jones is a retired Colonel with post traumatic stress disorder. Together they rescue a small frontier town from aliens.

Review in brief: Turn your brain off and it’s pretty fun. Think too hard… or at all and it kind of falls apart. It stuck to Western movie tropes pretty closely and, partly because of that, lacked any creativity in the action sequences. I enjoyed it, but part of that was laughing at the movie itself.  2/5

Ranting and Raving: The aliens are interplanetary miners, come for gold. Sure. fine. They’re doing a fine job of mining that gold. They’ve apparently wiped out entire advanced civilizations do to the same elsewhere. Great.

So when it comes time to actually fight the primitive denizens of earth, the go out, largely unarmed, to engage in hand to hand combat instead of using their superguns or any other kind of advanced weaponry. They don’t even lock the doors on their spaceship when an attack is clearly underway.  I’m sorry, but if you don’t give some justification for a space faring race being incredibly stupid, I can’t take your movie seriously.

To be clear, Cowboys and Aliens wanted to be taken seriously. It was played straight. Even with the silliest premise and title, it was thrown out as a genuine Western with action movie grit and characterization. If you didn’t know better, you would think that the director didn’t know that this was silly.

Skeptical Spin: I think I’ve already made it clear that engaging critically with Cowboys and Aliens is a terrible idea. There was one moment though that treated a skeptic with some due respect. There’s a doctor and a priest. The priest dies. The doctor has already stated is doubt in the existence of a god but he’s the only one that thinks the group should say something after burying the priest. The prayer is brilliant and I will repeat it here  as best as I can remember:

“God, um, if your there and there is a such thing a soul I recon this man had a good one so take care of it. He made me feel better and the world was better for having him in it. Ashes to ashes amen. How was that?”

So there you go, a sympathetic treatment of a doubter in a Hollywood film.


Ryan is a professional nerd, teaching engineering in the frozen north. Somewhat less professionally, he is a costumer, author, blacksmith, juggler, gamer, serial enthusiast, and supporter of the Oxford comma. He can be found on twitter and instagram @studentofwhim. If you like what I do here, feel free to leave a tip in my tipjar.

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  1. I saw it yesterday. It was a pretty decent movie but I couldn’t get past: Why would you come all this way to mine an inhabited planet when there are so many perfectly good asteroids lying around?

  2. @Steve, I didn’t even notice that behind the rest of the poor planning the advanced alien race was doing.

    I suppose that automated mining processes for asteroids must be much more technologically taxing than manned interstellar travel and planetary conquest.

  3. Do you *really* think this:

    > To be clear, Cowboys and Aliens wanted to be taken seriously. It was played straight.


    Ryan, you made those amazing dragons so I have to cut you some slack, but I respectfully disagree. C&A reminded me a lot of Silverado. I remembered to turn my brain off during the previews–there’s even a little public service announcement to that effect (or was that cell phones?) Anyway, I give it 4 out of 5 (rounded up from 3.5 for exactly that quote about soul).

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