The Lone Ranger

When I heard that director Gore Verbinski and Johnny Depp were making a tongue in cheek version of The Lone Ranger, I was a little disappointed.  My first instinct is see what a serious approach would be like.  But when I got to considering the source material, I realized that there really is no other way to go about it.  Sure you could probably make a dark version with the same tone as Unforgiven or The Searchers but it wouldn’t work.  And if it did it wouldn’t be The Lone Ranger.

The whole concept is for kids.  It is a piece of baby boomer nostalgia showing the ideal of American rectitude and strength, both of mind and body, especially as played by Clayton Moore.  Sure there are racist overtones in the relationship with Tonto but those go right over the heads of the intended audience.  In the world of the Lone Ranger it is easy to tell right from wrong and right always wins.

Verbinski and Depp perhaps use more shades of grey in their version but the idea is the same.

This film is really more about Tonto, probably because Johnny Depp wanted to play Tonto and he’s a big movie star.  Armie Hammer plays John Reid, the man behind the mask as a newly minted lawyer who returns to his hometown in the wilds of Texas to serve as a prosecutor.  He has a strong faith in law and order and the Enlightenment ideas of John Locke.  It doesn’t even occur to him that people higher up might be corrupt.

I can’t help but feel that this film’s heart is in the right place.  The semi-comedic tone is about right.  But it’s too long; the plot meanders, and in their attempt to show the growth of the Lone Ranger character they have adopted a pessimistic view of our legal institutions that justifies vigilantism.  Now granted, that’s a given with any superhero movie, especially the ones dealing with street level crime, but The Lone Ranger really makes a point of it.

In its favor is Johnny Depp, who gives his usual charmingly eccentric performance as Tonto.  Armie Hammer is a big goofy kid who has instant charisma.  He reminds me of a young Brendan Fraser.  William Fichtner is scary as the greasy ruthless villain.

Basically the movie sinks under the weight of its contradictions.  It is a simple adventure tale that has a running time of well over two hours.  They could have easily cut a half hour to forty-five minutes. 

The Lone Ranger is watchable but ultimately disappointing.



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July 2013
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