In Cowboys & Aliens, things could get summed up rather quickly. A man (Craig) with no name (because he can’t remember it) awakens in the Arizona desert with a bloody slit in his side, a photo, and some sort of device attached to his wrist. After violently taking out three armed men, he heads into Absolution where all he wants to do is get a drink and be left alone. A woman named Ella (Olivia Wilde) seems to know who he is and soon enough, Sheriff John Taggart (Keith Carradine) recognizes him as Jake Lonergan, wanted for lots of things, most importantly the murder of Alice (Abigail Spencer), seen only in flashback, naturally.
Soon enough, we find out the thing on Jake’s wrist is some kind of extraterrestrial boomstick when alien ships whiz through town picking up a few townsfolk along the way. Including, but not limited to, Taggert, local saloon owner Doc’s (Sam Rockwell) wife Maria (Ana de la Reguera), and Woodrow Dolarhyde’s (Ford) son Percy (Paul Dano). Now, a posse sets out to chase after the “demon” visitors including Jake, Ella, Doc, and Dolarhyde, along with Dolarhyde’s surrogate American Indian son Nat (Adam Beach), a dog, and Taggart’s grandson Emmett (Noah Ringer). It’s not long before we finally learn why the aliens are here and what they want with and from us.
While most will be heading in with a certain expectation since Universal’s marketing department is trumpeting the film as “From the director of Iron Man,” which, of course, it is; don’t be expecting this to be a western/alien themed version of that. This film has a whole tone of its own and, while it is able to sneak in a few one-liners, it’s nowhere near as jokey as you’d think coming from a comic book adaptation. The comic book takes itself way too seriously, and while the film doesn’t exactly float on the fluffy side, make no mistake that this is one wild ride.