Spoiler alert. This post was intended for those who have seen the movie.
1) What is the deal with Olivia Wilde's character Ella Swenson? First, she chases around the man-with-no-name (Daniel Craig) for obscure reasons (She wants to know where he came from). Then, after she dies from an alien blow, Native Americans burn her corpse, whereupon she is reborn Phoenix-style and nude by the campfire. She turns out to be a shape-shifting alien (who speaks fluent Apache) from another planet in search of her parents? What the heck? I can imagine the conversation amongst the movie's 27 screenwriters went something like this: "Ella dies, so that's a sad scene, giving Craig a chance to emote. Then, she's reborn, so she can appear in the PG-13 version of nude, which should help with the movie's marketing. Win, win."
2) Is the inverted river boat stranded in the desert an allusion to Herzog's Fitzcarraldo (1982)?
3) Why are the aliens after gold? Is it because the filmmakers are?
4) Why do the Native Americans and the cowboys join forces to fight the aliens? Is it another example of the Dances with Wolves (1990) effect, a revisionist way for American audiences to feel good about the Native American holocaust?
5) Why is Paul Dano in the movie as Harrison Ford's character's delinquent son Percy Dolarhyde? Is he supposed to remind us of his work in the infinitely superior There Will Be Blood (2007)? Does that make Ford's Colonel Dolarhyde some bizarre variation on Daniel Plainview (Daniel Day-Lewis)?
6) In the production notes of the Cowboys & Aliens' webpage, I learned that, in the 1875 town of Absolution, "nobody makes a move on its streets unless ordered to do so by the iron-fisted Colonel Dolarhyde (Ford). It’s a town that lives in fear."
If that is the case, why do we hardly ever see that side of the Colonel? He does take time to torture a man early on, but he's genial and laid back (in a distracted Harrison Ford kind of way) for the rest of the movie, chatting with young Emmet (The Last Airbender's Noah Ringer) about being brave. He even gives the boy his knife.
7) How many weird correlations are there between Cowboys & Aliens and Jonah Hex?
8) Why does C&A share a scene with Transformers: Dark of the Moon which closely resembles the Challenger Space Shuttle disaster of 1986?
9) Why do the aliens have retractable little arms in their chests? Are they meant to be cute? Are they a variation on the mouth within the mouth of the creature in the Alien series?
10) Did Jon Favreau & Co mean to make the aliens look like the fish-footman in Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland?
11) Why does Cowboys & Aliens share a scene with Super 8 in which a bunch of people are found mesmerized inside a cave? In the more recent film, they are all glassy-eyed and hypnotized by a great glowing alien thing above them. Afterwards, they forget they were ever there. Does that have something to do with the way Jon Favreau wants us to react to the movie?