Cowboys & Aliens

Short on plot, high on spectacle - that'll be a typical Hollywood blockbuster then

Given the level of vitriol aimed at this blockbuster genre mash-up, you’d be forgiven for expecting it to be an absolute stinker. Unsurprisingly, it isn’t.

Sure, it has its problems, not least its complete inability to settle on a single tone. But to my eyes it’s certainly no worse than the vast majority of Hollywood’s dumb-but-fun blockbusters. And at least this one has the benefit of three extremely watchable leads (Daniel Craig, Harrison Ford and Olivia Wilde) and some great supporting performances to help pull you through the movie’s doldrums.

Picture: This Blu-ray presentation of Cowboys & Aliens represents everything you’d expect from a major studio release of modern FX-driven action blockbuster. There are some very, very minor instances of black crush to be spotted if you keep an eye out, but, on the whole, the disc serves up a handsome AVC 2.40:1 1080p encode that really excels with the film’s sandy palette. Even more impressive is the amount of fine detail on display – never more so than in close-ups of the grizzled leading men.
Picture rating: 5/5

Audio: Presented in DTS-HD MA, Cowboys & Aliens’ 5.1-channel soundtrack is a blast from start to finish. From the opening scene onwards it offers up an array of panning and rear effects that create an authentic 360-degree soundfield. Bass is both powerful and controlled, delivering high-impact thrills throughout the film’s running time, while dialogue sounds entirely natural at the same time – it’s cleanly picked out within the mix and pinned to the centre speaker.
Audio rating: 5/5

Extras: Sadly, in the move from US distributor Universal to UK distributor Paramount, a number of the Blu-ray bonus features have gone AWOL. Chief amongst these is the U-Control picture-in-picture track. The UK disc also misses out on the 119-minute theatrical cut of the film (we only get the 135-minute extended cut) and the interactive Second Screen function that allows you to check out features on a synchronised tablet or laptop while watching the Blu-ray on TV.

But that’s enough of what’s missing. The good news is that there’s still a reasonably in-depth collection of material, kicking off with an enthusiastic feature-length audio commentary by director Jon Favreau. This is followed up by six Conversations with Jon Favreau, where he sits down and talks with Daniel Craig; Harrison Ford; Olivia Wilde; Steven Spielberg, Ron Howard and Brian Glazer; Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci; and Damon Lindelof – all of which runs for a whopping 80 minutes. Then we come to the five-part Igniting the Sky: The Making of Cowboys & Aliens, an extensive behind-the-scenes documentary that clocks in at a little over 40 minutes. Finally, being a Triple Play release, the Blu-ray also comes accompanied by both a DVD and Digital Copy of the film.
Extras rating: 3/5

We say: A thoroughly average sci-fi blockbuster bolstered by superb AV performance on Blu-ray

Paramount Home Entertainment, All-region BD/R2 DVD, £25 approx, On sale now