What follows is frankly a bit of a mess a movie inter-mingled with some great moments. I was so dismayed by how uneven the film was that I had to look up the writing credits and discovered the problem, Cowboys & Aliens has eight credited writers. This truly explains the mix of good moments like Dollarhydes motivations and Lonergans stoic style but also explains the clichéd alien moments ripped right from Aliens and the terrible pacing that plagues the movie.
The movie starts well, falters as characters with no real purpose are introduced, then jumps to crazy alien action, slows to a grinding halt, and then picks up again. It does at least have a great cast giving perfectly acceptable performances. You can tell at times that Daniel Craig and Harrison Ford are as dismayed by the plot and action as we are but they give it their best shot. In the end Cowboys & Aliens is a movie full of flaws that remains watchable because of the sporadic great moments and a cast that truly carries the film.
I did say that the cast carries the film, but the video quality should be considered a star as well. As seems to be typical of a Universal release lately the 1080p/AVC-encoded video transfer on this Blu-ray is spectacular. From bright desert scenes to dimly lit interiors the image onscreen is amazing in every way. Small details like stubble, the scuffed metal on Lonegrans bracelet and textures in cloth jump out of the screen. This is a stellar transfer and while I disliked the alien’s designs there is no denying how terrific and seamless the CG looks in this transfer. A true triumph visually that is dragged down by the inconsistent movie itself.
The video transfer may have blown me away, but the audio mix knocked me down with its sheer power and quality. I have been watching a lot of quieter movies lately so it was actually a real treat to listen to this visceral DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround track. Every aspect of the audio experience was expertly crafted, from minor noises like cloth rippling to the booming explosions as the aliens attack. Dialog is always perfectly understood; even when waves of aliens are shooting up the town and the surround mix is always in motion with ambient noise and audio cues floating all around.