Who's In It: Daniel Craig, Harrison Ford, Olivia Wilde, Paul Dano, Sam Rockwell, Adam Beach, Noah Ringer
The Basics: Daniel Craig wakes up in the New Mexico desert, a wound in his gut, his memory gone and a chunky metal bracelet on his wrist. This, of course, means that aliens spit him out of their ship and he's going to have to enlist help to battle them. He gets it in the form of some angry, dirty, terrified townsfolk, the kid from The Last Airbender, a growling Harrison Ford, Olivia Wilde in an extremely form-fitting prairie dress, a bunch of pissed-off Native Americans, some gun-toting drifters and a brave doggie. It's the brave doggie that really tips the fight in their favor.
What's The Deal: Everything in this movie is borrowed from other movies. If you've seen a Western, a science-fiction film, any junky summer alien popcorn movie, any random gang of ragtag losers fighting a seemingly unstoppable force, one wide-eyed movie kid in awestruck terror, one father-son drama or Sigourney Weaver as Ripley, then you've already absorbed everything this film has to offer from other sources. In fact, if you asked the prop department they'd probably tell you that the fake cacti were used by Clint Eastwood in 1970. There's no compelling cinematic justification to see it. I think I just liked it when the creatures opened up their gooey body cavities and reached their gross little claw-hands and sophisticated glowing space instruments out toward their victims. It never goes full-tilt How The West Was Anally Probed like you wish it would, but that's something. Okay, yes, barely anything.
Wait. Forget The Alien Claws. Here's A Bizarro Reason: The feeling that even with a script worked over by five different people who adapted it from a comic book, it still seems like they--director Jon Favreau and maybe even the cast--made it up as they went along. Clearly, that shouldn't be something to like. Committee screenplays are one of the thousand things wrong with the movie business. But when literally anything can happen (and it does, with silly revelations and shifts in tone, characters suddenly gifted with abilities you--and sometimes even they--didn't know they had) and when the best line in the film is "You've got to stop thinking," you realize you've encountered a type of chaos. And that's always at least enough to keep you paying attention.
Phoning It In: Harrison Ford, here and in the films Extraordinary Measures and Morning Glory and, come to think of it, every movie he's been in over the past several years, has perfected an acting style I like to call "Everybody Is Harshing My Mellow." He's got one face now, irritated and impatient, an air of "How dare you talk to me that way, kid; I was Han Solo before your parents even decided to keep you." The weirdest part of this is that even if it's intentional, even if he knows he's doing it and seeing if he can just get away with it in movie after movie, I like watching him be that very specific type of grumpy old man.