I haven’t dug much of anything that’d I’d seen in advance of seeing THE LONE RANGER tonight. I’m a fan of the original Clayton Moore series – and have been raised by a father that sat around the radio listening to those thrilling days of yesteryear. That said… despite my own experience with the media for the film, I do have a basic love of the character – and really do not wish for a repeat of the profound boredom I experienced with THE LEGEND OF THE LONE RANGER, back when I was a kid.
I like Gore Verbinski’s work quite a bit generally – and was curious to see what they had in store for us.
The film begins in 1930’s San Francisco as the Golden Gate Bridge was being constructed. This instantly signaled to me to the structure of the film, which would be flashbacks, but there’s a boy with a mask dressed as the Lone Ranger at an exhibit at a Carnival dedicated to the old west. I was hoping the Buffalo would be a foreshadow to how the Lone Ranger came to nurse Silver back to health after Silver’s fight with a buffalo… but Silver has a different origin – and I’m alright with it.
Gone as well is the childhood bond that was formed in the original TV show between Tonto and the Lone Ranger… but I knew going in that there would be radical tonal and focus shifts.
Overall, though I found the film entertaining and fun, though longer than necessary. One doesn’t need this story to be two and a half hours. THE LONE RANGER could’ve been a rip-roaring yarn from the legendary West – and mostly it kinda is. The humor does work, mainly because Johnny Depp and Verbinski are channeling a bit of Buster Keaton in Depp’s portrayal of Tonto – which really becomes obvious during the spectacular train action sequence that is the big third act wow. I say wow, but if you’ve seen THE GENERAL by Buster Keaton – and really… you’re reading a very FILM GEEK-centric website… You should do yourself a favor and discover this astonishing film. Anyway, the dueling train work proves yet again what Orson Welles said after his first visit to a film studio, “This is the biggest electric-train set any boy ever had.” Hollywood has the power to dazzle, and even in this bloated silly rendition of THE LONE RANGER – it does dazzle.
First off – once we get into the story, you’ll notice that while set in Texas, it is the Texas of a John Ford western – which means you’ll love Monument Valley all over again. This is a lush film.
For all intents and purposes this is actually very close to the origin story of the LONE RANGER. Butch Cavendish and his gang ambush seven Texas Rangers. Tonto finds our hero, nurses him back to health – and then he and Tonto seek out justice upon Butch and his gang and thus begins his new life – wondering the West dispensing justice with silver bullets.
So – why is it two and a half hours long?
Because they wanted to indulge themselves a bit. We have Helena Bonham-Carter’s one legged madame that runs a Bordello saloon. She’s fun, the ivory leg is particularly fetishistic and neat. But every one of her scenes could be excised without missing a thing.
There’s also a romantic subplot with his childhood sweetheart that his legendary Texas Ranger brother married and had a kid with – Again, none of this is particularly necessary. It is what you’d expect. They’re used as a device to keep the Lone Ranger in pursuit… but this is because they’ve decided to make the Lone Ranger a reluctant hero, more of a Jimmy Stewart from THE MAN WHO SHOT LIBERTY VALANCE meets Bob Hope’s SON OF PALEFACE – or if you don’t get that film literate, then you could settle for a Jar Jar clumsy-fu. There’s more mystic mumbo jumbo about our hero and his horse than was ever in the original story – but again… it’s kinda fun.
But making The Lone Ranger a bit of a goof has the possibility of alienating hardcore fans – but it was certainly a more fun take on the property than the 80’s stillborne attempt.
My 12 (almost 13 ) year old nephew has had zero exposure to THE LONE RANGER and thought it was a whole lot of fun, he did say he wished it’d been a bit more serious. But that came from him before any of us had said a thing.
My Dad – who has been a Lone Ranger fan – well, forever, he enjoyed it quite a bit. Adjusting to the tonal shifts.
Of course my impatience with the film could have nothing to do with the film itself.
For about 45 minutes of the movie, I had a handicapped gentleman next to me going through a really terrible set of uncontrollable spasms. But since he was next to me, his body was slamming into me and given the amount of time I’ve spent in Rehab – I’ve seen these sorts of things – they just play themselves out… I tried to focus on the screen, but… just try to focus past my neighbors physiological calamity – and focus on the big glowy screen of entertainment. I couldn’t complain or even be mad at the man. I often have to fight through spasticity and it’s really freaky and hard to focus away. His condition was many times more severe than my leg spasms and it was a full body thing. He was trying to stop it, he knew he was driving me crazy – but the few times we locked eyes – I could tell how miserable he was to have this happen during a movie so close to anyone. The man definitely has my best wishes.
The problem with this sort of distraction is it puts my mind in a hyper critical mode. Obviously this wasn’t an ideal film watching scenario – especially for writing a review… but it that I came out of the film still liking the movie… I don’t believe this was over-compensating – for a lot of this film I had the goofiest smile. Depp’s physical buffoonery was more BENNY & JOON than Jack Sparrow. But Johnny has created a very fun Tonto. That said, I didn’t care too much for the “Joker created me” demystifying of Tonto’s background. Not in the manner they did. I also have to admit that I was quietly hoping that they were going to go a little more Indian Mysticism than they showed. What’s here can make you believe it is all bullshit – and it would have been something new to explore.
This film is very much constructed to make kids want to become Tonto – more than the Lone Ranger – and given that this is Tonto telling a kid the story – it does work. Tonto has a different tact on The Lone Ranger – this may not be the Lone Ranger I grew up with, but kids will dig the hell out of this. The audience applauded afterwards and as I was leaving – folks were asking me what I thought every 10 feet or so and I was saying that I enjoyed it, but not in that HARRY manner that denotes obsessive compulsive love and passion. I can’t give this film that.
For me – The Lone Ranger will always be Clayton Moore. And Tonto will always be Jay Silverheels. When the William Tell Overture kicks in (a few times in the film) – it feels absolutely right. White knuckle adventure. Armie Hammer’s John Reid was way more of a pussy than I cared for.
In many ways – it reminds me of Seth Rogen’s GREEN HORNET. A film whose silliness I enjoyed – but still would have preferred a more traditional take. If this is a success – I could see them make Armie Hammer’s Lone Ranger more serious. If they do, I hope he NEVER TAKES OFF THE MASK AGAIN, unless in deep make-up during an investigation/mission.
William Fichtner’s Butch Cavendish is probably the very best thing in the film, but he’s redundant and a tad emasculated by the end. The film is very much steeped in Western iconography, but doesn’t push any of it nearly as far as they could have. There are thrills, chills and laughs – but it didn’t give me the goosebumps and misty eyes I so wanted.