Friday, January 31, 2014

The Lone Ranger Review

I'm still convinced that Disney is searching for another cash cow like Pirates of the Caribbean was. Prince of Persia didn't quite cut it and John Carter was a flop. The Lone Ranger (2013) is their latest attempt. The movie was dragged through the mud by other critics, but I ended up seeing it anyway. Frankly, I think it's a whole lot better than the media made it out to be.
In the 1930's, an elderly Tonto (Johnny Depp) tells a young boy the tale of John Reid, The Lone Ranger (Armie Hammer). An idealistic lawyer, he rides with his brother and fellow Texas Ranger in pursuit of the notorious Butch Cavendish (William Fichtner). Ambushed by the outlaw and left for dead, John Reid is rescued by the renegade Comanche, Tonto, at the insistence of a mysterious white horse and offers to help him bring Cavendish to justice. Becoming a reluctant masked rider with a seemingly incomprehensible partner, Reid pursues the criminal against all obstacles. However, John and Tonto learn that Cavendish is only part of a far greater injustice, and the pair must fight it in an adventure that would make them legend.
The Lone Ranger has a few things going for it that other Pirates of the Caribbean-success attempts didn't have. First, it has Johnny Depp. Depp is type cast a lot of the time, but still excels in comical roles like he did in Pirates of the Caribbean. Second, The Lone Ranger has the same director as Pirates did; Gore Verbinski. He did the first three Pirates movies, Rango, and Mousehunt. He's a very visual director that has made some outstanding family films. It's the fact that both of these Hollywood personalities are present in The Lone Ranger. I'm certain it was the decision of studio executives and film producers to have them involved in The Lone Ranger in hopes that it would be as successful as Pirates was.
The Lone Ranger started out as a radio show way back in the 1930's. There have been a number of television shows and movies based off of it. I've never seen or heard any of these, but I am familiar with the cultural icons. All are present in this movie and they are well incorporated. The catchphrases, well known characters, Even the music from the William Tell Overture, which was used as a theme song in the old radio show, is present.
A lot of the exterior shots were filmed on desert locations in Utah, New Mexico, and Arizona. Gore has captivated an excellent Old West feel with gorgeous widescreen spectacles that owe a lot to classic “spaghetti westerns” of the 1960's. Even the action heralds back to Buster Keaton-style stunts. As far as visuals and action goes, this really is great movie to watch since it draws inspiration from a lot of old successful western movies. There had to be at least as many stunt men as there were digital effects artists working on this movie.
Depp and Hammer were great together. Hammer is a ridged, comically straight laced, sheltered, naïve city boy who is completely out of his element. It's kind of fun to watch him learn how the world really is and how he decides to take a stand and make things as good as he believes they should be. Depp is basically the same wacky character he often plays. This rendition of Tonto is similar to Captain Jack Sparrow but with a Native American motif. He's funny, weird, and serves up wacky humor.
The Lone Ranger is certainly not without it's faults. The most blaring of which is having a very white guy portraying a Native American. I love Johnny Depp, but it's so awkward when actors who are obviously of European decent, are playing characters of other ethnicities. Why not just give an actor of the character's ethnicity an opportunity to shine? I think that Tonto's character acts so comically weird that he becomes a politically incorrect depiction of Native Americans, and might offend some viewers. On the other hand, the Native Americans in the movie (actually played by Native Americans) all agree that Tonto is crazy and doesn't represent them. Still, the character makes me cringe a little.
Another problem is the spiritualism theme. It's repeatedly established that “nature is out of balance” and is causing animals to behave strangely. This is occasionally funny such as the scene when John's horse is found in a tree, and sometimes creepy. What causes this is not really established. Is it all the corruption from the outlaws? The western civilization taking over the American wilds? I have no idea. While the idea is repeated several times, it's neither resolved nor explained. It seems that it was haphazardly stuck into the movie here and there in an attempt to create a sense of larger stakes than what was originally thought, or to establish a sense of urgency. The story would have made more sense without it.
Finally, I thought the length of the movie was too long. It's fun, but long. The first forty-five minutes of the movie are excellent. It's easy to get lost in the second forty-five minutes. There ends up being multiple groups of villains that take too much time to explain. By the time it's all sorted out we've stopped caring and we're ready to see our heroes duke it out with the baddies. I think the movie would have been stronger with just one central villain.
The Lone Ranger is fun. Everyone told me it was crap, but I genuinely enjoyed it. There's tons of deadpan comedy and witty humor, lots of exciting action, some impressive visuals, and fun characters. It runs a bit long and might lose its audience from time to time, but that train scene at the end makes any confusion well worth enduring. I don't think it's quite as good as the first Pirates of the Caribbean was, but it is by far much better than critics were saying it is. I highly recommend renting The Lone Ranger, you may even consider purchasing a copy if you enjoyed other Gore Verbinski films.

Did you see The Lone Ranger? What did you think? Would you be up for watching a second installment? Comment below and tell me why or why not!

No comments:

Post a Comment