THE LONE RANGER
*** (out of 5)
July 3, 2013
Johnny Depp as TONTO
Armie Hammer as JOHN REID / THE LONE RANGER
William Fichtner as BUTCH CAVENDISH
Tom Wilkinson as COLE
Ruth Wilson as REBECCA REID
Helena Bonham Carter as RED HARRINGTON
James Badge Dale as DAN REID
Bryant Prince as DANNY
Directed by: Gore Verbinski
BY KEVIN CARR
Listen to Kevin’s radio review…
I’ve never actually seen an episode of the old “The Lone Ranger” television series, nor I have I seen any movie before based on the concept. But while I’m essentially a “Lone Ranger” version, I’m pretty familiar with the set-up.
So, even I had to furrow my brow in confusion for how this new version of “The Lone Ranger” was being presented. Sure, it’s an origin story, and it’s being put together by a visionary director who has a unique delivery style. Yeah, there hasn’t been a screen version of “The Lone Ranger” for more than 30 years, but even taking all that into account, this movie strays a bit far off the reservation… literally.
In fact, “The Lone Ranger” isn’t even really about the Lone Ranger. Instead, it’s Tonto’s movie. After all, the entire film is framed with his flashbacks after a boy discovers him working in a Wild West exhibit in the early 1930s. The grand character development and challenges to overcome are all Tonto’s. This spills over into the advertising, during which Tonto receives at least twice as much screen time (and all the hero shots) as Armie Hammer as the masked hero.
I guess this makes sense. After all, the film stars Johnny Depp as Tonto, and he was the golden ticket in Disney’s “Pirates of the Caribbean” movies for director Gore Verbinski. Johnny Depp is the international movie star that can push even middling films into the $1 billion range for global box office. Armie Hammer… well, he’s that guy who played twins in “The Social Network.”
Still, the movie does its best to tell the origin of the Lone Ranger… sort of. (Again, being that I’m not terribly familiar with the source material, I’m at a bit of a loss as to what is authentic in this film and what is hogwash.)
The story follows a idealistic lawyer named John Reid (Armie Hammer), whose law enforcement brother is killed in an ambush. Left for dead, Reid is saved by a rogue Native American named Tonto (Johnny Depp), who believes he has magical powers. Tonto encourages Reid to wear a mask, and together they try to upset a business deal that is leaving people dead.
As you might expect from a big summer movie from Verbinski, “The Lone Ranger” is a huge film. It’s got a huge scope, being shot against the gorgeous Utah desert (with about half of the scenes taking place in the iconic Monument Valley). It’s got some huge action sequences. It also a huge story, that tries to be too much and too huge. (This might be a result from various script revisions, which made some buzz not too long ago when a reported subplot about werewolves was allegedly excised from the production.)
However, along with all these huge positives, there come some pretty huge negatives. The film has a huge 2 1/2 hour running time, featuring huge plot holes and huge scenes that should have been left on the cutting room floor. (Heck, Verbinski could have saved the audience at least 20 minutes by leaving out the entire geriatric Tonto wrap-around story.)
The movie is also a bit of a contradiction. Verbinski is known for delivering a pretty edgy film, with dark content that might be too intense for the kiddies. This film features that, with plenty of on-screen deaths, including an off-screen death in which one character eats the heart of another.
However, there’s a blatant (and in many ways forced) attempt to fill the movie with lots of cheeky comic relief. I’m not sure how die-hard fans of the source material will feel about this, but it felt to me like the film was having a bit too much fun at the expense of its majesty.
“The Lone Ranger” might have been fantastic as a darker, more adult version of the story. It might have also been a fantastic, summer popcorn flick squarely directed at children and families. However, it tries to be both things and ends up being a bit confusing.
However, with all these negatives, I can’t say I didn’t enjoy it. The film ends with a bang, which makes up for a lot of the dragging that happens in the middle. It runs a bit long, but I did enjoy watching a good chunk of it. Maybe when I see it on home video in a couple months, my opinion may change. But right now, it’s got my tenuous support.