Cowboys & Aliens appears in an aspect ratio of 2.40:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. The movie gave us a strong transfer.
At all times, sharpness worked well. Only a handful of slightly soft shots occurred, so most of the flick came across as accurate and concise.
No issues with moiré effects or jaggies emerged, and edge haloes failed to mar the image. I also didn’t see any signs of source defects.
Like most modern action movies, Cowboys opted for the usual orange and teal palette. Though uninspiring, the hues showed appropriate reproduction.
Blacks seemed dark and dense, while low-light shots – of which we found many – appeared smooth and well-defined. This became a satisfying presentation.
As for the movie’s DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundtrack, it provided a vivid experience. Of course, the scenes of mayhem gave us the most impactful material, as those battered us with various active elements.
Music used all the speakers in a vivid manner, while various environmental moments featured the spectrum well, too. The movie used the whole soundscape well.
As expected, audio quality seemed stellar. Music was bold and bright, while speech appeared natural and concise.
Of course, effects dominated the track, and these elements provided excellent reproduction. All the action material showed terrific range and impact, with clear highs and wicked lows. This became a genuinely terrific mix.
On this disc, we get both the film’s theatrical version (1:58:15) as well as an Extended Cut (2:15:13). What does the longer version add?
The vast majority of the changes extend existing scenes. Many sequences run merely a second or two more, though some of them get greater elongation.
Still, you won’t find much truly new material here. The only completely fresh scene shows a Native ceremony the night before the cowboys’ final assault.
Often I prefer longer versions of movies, as their added breathing room tends to make them feel more natural and less rushed. In this case, though, I’d take the theatrical cut.
Even in its 118-minute incarnation, Cowboys runs too long, as it feels like a movie that would work better in a shorter, tighter cut. The extended Cowboys makes a slow movie even more sluggish.
Alongside either version of the film, we can screen an audio commentary with director Jon Favreau. He provides a running, screen-specific look at influences and inspirations, his approach to the material, story/characters, cast and performances, sets and locations, music, editing and changes for the extended cut, stunts and effects.
A veteran of the format, Favreau tends to provide competent commentaries that never catch fire. That proves true here, as Favreau delivers another decent chat.
At his best, Favreau offers strong insights about the production. However, he loses steam as he goes, and he also tends to narrate the movie too often. Though not a bad track, Favreau never makes it special.
Note that both cuts of the film use the same commentary. The theatrical version simply edits down Favreau’s remarks to fit its running time.
With U-Control, we find a picture-in-picture option. It shows footage from the set and interviews. We hear from Favreau, co-writers Roberto Orci, Alex Kurtzman and Damon Lindelof, producer/comic creator Scott Mitchell Rosenberg, executive producers Denis L. Stewart and Steven Spielberg, producer Ron Howard, stunt coordinator Thomas Robinson Harper, Legecy Effects owner Shane Mahan, and actors Clancy Brown, Harrison Ford, Keith Carradine, Olivia Wilde, Sam Rockwell, Daniel Craig, Adam Beach, Moses Brings Plenty, Abigail Spencer, and Walton Goggins.
The comments cover the mix of Western and sci-fi and genre tropes, story, cast and characters, Favreau’s approach to the material and influences, stunts and action, creature design and effects.
Along the way, we get some decent insights, but most of the info remains general and oriented toward praise/happy talk. I never liked the clunky “U-Control” format and the less than engaging clips found here don’t change that attitude.
Under Conversations with Jon Favreau, we find six segments. These encompass “Daniel Craig” (14:50), “Harrison Ford” (19:01), “Olivia Wilde” (10:48), “Steven Spielberg, Ron Howard and Brian Grazer” (14:19), “Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci” (6:44) and “Damon Lindelof” (14:20).
I assumed each clip would simply offer Favreau’s thoughts on these folks. Instead they bring chats between the director and the subjects.
That aspect makes these chats more interesting than expected. While we find some useful thoughts about Cowboys, but the info about other filmmaking domains works best. Though they vary in quality, they still work nicely overall.
Igniting the Sky offers five featurettes that span a total of 40 minutes, 12 seconds. Across these, we hear from Favreau, Orci, Kurtzman, Spielberg, Grazer, Howard, Rosenberg, Wilde, Craig, Ford, Carradine, Beach, Rockwell, Brown, Stewart, Mahan, Harper, production designer Scott Chambliss, costume designer Mary Zophres, lead alien character designer Ian Joyner, CG supervisor Robert Weaver, visual effects supervisor Roger Guyett, ILM animation supervisor Marc Chu, ILM co-visual effects supervisor Eddie Pasquarello, visual effects art director Christian Alzmann, viewpaint supervisor Martin Murphy, CG supervisor Daniel Pearson, and actors Ana De La Reguera, Brendan Wayne, Noah Ringer and Paul Dano.
“Sky” covers the project’s origins and path to the screen, Favreau’s approach, story/characters, cast and performances, sets and locations, costumes, creature design/creation, effects and stunts.
Like the other extras on the disc, this one comes with some good insights. However, it also brings a fair amount of happy talk, so it’s a mixed bag.
The disc opens with ads for Scorpion King 3: Battle For Redemption, Killer Elite, Honey 2 and Jurassic Park. No trailer for Cowboys appears here.
A second disc provides a DVD copy of Cowboys. It provides the movie’s theatrical cut as well as the commentary and three of the five “Igniting the Sky” featurettes.
Blessed with a fine cast and a fun premise, Cowboys & Aliens should delight. However, it seems flat and dull, without the light sense of silly fun it needs. The Blu-ray brings very good picture and audio as well as an erratic but still fairly informative package of bonus materials. Despite lots of potential, Cowboys disappoints.