Went to see two movies this past weekend, in my gleefully between-deadlines free time: Attack the Block (redband trailer, note — profanity and violence), and Cowboys and Aliens. Both were movies I’d been anticipating like whoa; both were movies that promised to hit all my usual sweet spots: alien invasions, action, cleverness, stuff blowing up, Daniel Craig’s lovely ass. (What? I’m not saying that’s the only reason I went to see it.) And though I’ve been hearing good things about Attack the Block for months, I went into both movies expecting to like Cowboys and Aliens better. Because, I mean, Indiana Jones and James Bond vs aliens. What else could a girl wish for?
Total upset, though: Attack the Block was phenomenal. I cheered when it was over. I’m now begging, telling, ordering everyone I know to go see it. But Cowboys and Aliens? Meh.
I’ve been processing my reaction to these films since I saw them, and realized that the difference is simple: AtB broke every film cliche I could think of, and C&A’s entire plot was practically a paint-by-numbers adherence to cliches. I can’t really go into either film’s surprises (or non-surprises) without dwelling on spoilers, but let’s just put it this way. Within 5 minutes of C&A I could guess the entire plot, right down to who would die heroically and stereotypically for the sake of everyone else. But within 5 minutes of AtB I knew I was seeing something I’d never seen before. I had no idea where it was going, but I could tell I was about to enjoy the hell out of the ride. AtB actually made me glad I’d spent $14 to see the film in theaters. Whereas C&A made me think I probably should’ve waited to Netflix it. (Then at least I could’ve paused on a shot of Daniel Craig’s — WHAT. STOP LOOKING AT ME LIKE THAT.)
So please, if you’re in one of the handful of US cities where AtB is playing, go see it. Then go see it again. Vote with your dollars for more stuff that breaks the molds, and maybe Hollywood will finally get the message that audiences crave something different. The theater was only about 1/3 full when I went to see AtB, because the film’s distributors haven’t advertised it at all, so word of mouth is going to have to do the job. This is me doing my part.
And somebody please just give John Boyega an Oscar already. This kid’s going places.