Director: Gore Verbinski
Cast: Armie Hammer, Johnny Depp, Ruth Wilson, William Fichter, Tom Wilkinson, Helena Bonham Carter, James Badge Dale
Plot: When John Reid (Hammer) is shot, but somehow brought back from the dead as a spirit walker, he teams up with a vengeful native Indian, Tonto (Depp), to become the Lone Ranger, a figure of justice in the Wild West.
Mild Spoilers alert
As America builds the first railroad, connecting the continent in a way unheard of before, the Rangers are busy hunting deadly cannibal and criminal, Butch Cassidy. John Reid, a DA, and his brother, Dan, go out to hunt down this criminal, but end up getting ambushed. Somehow John Reid survives and is nursed to health by a crazy Native Indian, Tonto. Tonto explains that he believes that Reid is a spirit walker, a man unable to die in battle. Only partially believing Tonto, Reid dons a mask, calls himself the Lone Ranger and begins hunting down Butch once again, unaware that there is a conspiracy going on back home.
Odds are even if you don’t quite know what the Lone Ranger is about, you have heard the name being bandied around the news a lot. It has been criticised for spending 225 million dollars and not really coming up with anything good. It has probably been the year’s biggest flop and definitely the most public one. However, this made it even more surprising when I sat down to watch it and was reasonably impressed. I’m not saying that it’s a great movie or is going to make anyone’s top five this year. Hell, it probably doesn’t make the top half of my favourite 2013 movies, but it’s hardly painful to watch. I have actually wanted a good Western movie to come out for a while now and even if this movie is hardly ‘A Fistful of Dollars’ or ‘Josey Wales’, it is still worth a recommendation.
According to my Dad, who I went to see it with, this movie is actually a pretty decent homage of the actual Lone Ranger character from decades ago. It has the themes, storylines and characters that can be remembered from the original franchise, but Verbinski gives it a fresh lick of paint. I can appreciate that, but where it falls down is the fact that hardly anyone knows who the Lone Ranger is. It is fun spending some time with this character to the point, where it is partially upsetting no one is ever going to make a sequel of this film after the media’s criticism, but at the same time, most of the audience are not going to get the clever references that Verbinski expertly makes. And again, it is hard to disagree with the sense that 225 million is too much to spend doing so.
The plot is quite a good one. I mean, there are a fair share of plot holes (by the end of the film, Butch Cassidy is free to wander around the celebratory opening of the railway, despite being one of the most wanted men in the country), but the actual motivation behind the villains of the piece made sense. I liked how the Native Indians were being framed for the slaughter of several farmers and how the plot is eventually tied into the silver mining. It was quite a clever little story, even if the final twist is so easy to guess, it is barely worth holding your breath for. The Lone Ranger seems to be the only character who falls for it.
Sadly, while the film is great in certain places, it keeps falling short in others. The film opens with an ageing Tonto recounting the story to a young boy in a museum, cutting back and forth from the action. These scenes felt so pointless that you kept forgetting about them as the movie got going. It was just an excuse to get Johnny Depp in some prosthetics. Those sequences could have been scrapped completely. There is also a sense that the film needs to stop being so comical. I know that Verbinski is trying to recapture the charm of ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’, but in the Lone Ranger there is never any sense of danger. The film’s budget goes on incredible stunts and set-pieces, yet they all feel hollow, because there is never any depth to them. The final fight pulls out all of the stops and while it is fun to watch, you wish that Verbinski would get rid of the Lone Ranger theme tune. I know that it’s an important part of the canon, but it goes on throughout the entire fight, which is pretty long, and is impossible to take too seriously.
Ironically the biggest failure of the film is Johnny Depp. Sometimes, he is just what the film needs. It keeps slowing down yet Depp saves a moment with some humour. However, when the movie really gets going, he needs to learn how to tone this side of his acting down. Again, we are never scared that the character will die, because he is always pulling amusing faces, when this train is meant to be crushing him. The kids will love it, but adults will wish that Depp would start taking the story a little more seriously. Although he doesn’t take the limelight away from Hammer as much I was told, I do agree that less time should have been spent on Tonto and more on the actual Lone Ranger. I am sure Verbinski only hired him, because in his contract, you get five complimentary minutes of Helena Bonham Carter in your movie.
So yes, the Lone Ranger is more of a scapegoat than a truly bad movie. I do agree with every point that the media makes – there is far too much money in film and 2015 could make or break the bank – but that doesn’t mean Lone Ranger is repulsive to watch. Sure, it’s not the best movie you will ever see, but it is easily worth the price of a cinema ticket.
Final verdict: Big and fun, maybe a little too much, but not as horrendous as the media will have you believe.