Cowboys and Aliens
First, it was a great movie. It was fun. It held my attention every single moment from the beginning of it until the end. But even so I have to admit that some of the less than fabulous reviews have a point. The movie is missing something.
Mostly, it seemed to me that it was missing a big payoff at the end. It was great while it was happening, but when it was over it was just over. Some critics said it could have been Cowboys vs. anything... that the aliens were pointless.
Anyhow, I figured it out. I figured out where the essential mistake occurred when they made this movie.
They failed to identify whose story it was.
It was Ella Swenson's story. It was the alien's story. In the trailers they have her explaining that the aliens killed "her people" and you suspect that she's Native American. She's not. Her "people" are an alien race.
But because they did not make it her story, the pay-off when she sacrifices herself to destroy the alien ship has no emotional oomph. Is is not, actually, a pay-off at all. There is no real reason for her to want to protect the humans at so dire a price, other than not wanting the aliens to win another one. But since she only stops one scouting group from destroying one planet instead of revenging herself on the entire alien race, it sort of lacks strength.
Doc and Jake and Woodrow have wonderful stories. As I said, it was riveting.
But Ella was just sort of there. How did she get to Earth? Did she have a choice? How long had she been here? Why didn't she have any technology? Why was she willing to sacrifice herself for humans?
It was her story, and we had no emotional investment in her at all.