“The Lone Ranger” is a thrilling adventure infused with action and humor, in which the famed masked hero is brought to life through new eyes. Native American spirit warrior Tonto (Johnny Depp) recounts the untold tales that transformed John Reid (Armie Hammer), a man of the law, into a legend of justice—taking the audience on a runaway train of epic surprises and humorous friction as the two unlikely heroes must learn to work together and fight against greed and corruption.
I want to say this film was released ten years too late, but even that notion isn’t possible because we would not get the care and attention to detail that a The Lone Ranger movie in 2013 provides. There is a visual exactness or correctness to the film, and while it’s nice to see. That’s about it, it’s just nice. There isn’t anything overly spectacular about The Lone Ranger. It has a steady diet of what you would expect, but at its core, the film fringes on average entertainment hovering just above the word, bland.
It’s a sad omission and even thinking back on the film now, it’s hard to pin-point exactly what didn’t work or maybe what ‘did work’ is a more accurate assessment. I did think the duo of Armie Hammer (as John Reid, a moral/justice-first lawyer, turned Texas Ranger, turned ‘The Lone Ranger’) and Johnny Depp (as Tonto, who was cast back in 2008 to be the renowned sidekick of The Lone Ranger) do well together. The overall supporting cast I thought was well-rounded as well, with William Fincher (as Butch Cavendish, a ruthless outlaw), Tom Wilkinson (as railroad tycoon, Latham Cole), James Badge Dale (as Dan Reid, John’s brother killed early on by Cavendish spurring John’s revenge for justice), Ruth Wilson (as Rebecca Reid, the woman who loves both the Reid brothers), Helena Bonham Carter (in the minor role of Red Harrington, a brothel madam), and Barry Pepper (as Captain Jay Fuller, a United States Cavalry officer).
But it comes to a point where despite the cast and the tandem or duo-ness (probably not a real word) of Hammer/Depp isn’t enough to carry the full 149 minute length of the film. Yes this movie is two hours and a half (I like long movies, but this one manages to make you feel every single minute [see: too long, how, why, okay…]).
The story isn’t as descript as you would hope and maybe that’s why it’s told in a flashback narrative. As an older Tonto in 1933, retells his story to a young Will (actor Mason Cook, you know him from the show-and-tell car commercial) about the times of the Wild West in 1869. The story is as muddied as its required intermission breaks with Will, is it an origin movie, are there going to be sequels (probably hoped for, but doubtful due to the flopping at the box office), why pace the film in such a manner? I think it might’ve been an attempt to want us to feel like the young kid again, an effort to ground the film, a self-awareness of the PG-13 rating, but also the hope to reach out to a ‘family oriented’ demographic. Where depending when we grew up, we might’ve pretended to be The Lone Ranger in our youth. And even with youth today, maybe you want to get them to play dress up and whistle along to The Lone Ranger theme music, hoping it still is catchy enough to do that (admittedly I did this on my drive home from the film).
However – that’s another thing.
I think this property might just be outdated and in its course, its irrelevancy as a film was pre-determined. The film carries a self-awareness of its intended audience but as a movie itself, the absurdity is toned down despite both Hammer and Depp’s willingness to go almost slapstick. It could’ve been a good thing, because The Lone Ranger definitely carries moments of laugh-out-loud fun and entertainment. Hence why I think this movie might’ve worked better ten years ago, when we were coming off films like The Mummy (1999) and The Mummy Returns (2001). The Lone Ranger is an attempt at the lightning in the bottle that the ‘pirate-magic’ of the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise had, instead here it’s in the Wild West (I mean, all the same players have returned: director Gore Verbinski, producer Jerry Bruckheimer, screenwriters Ted Elliot and Terry Rossio, and actor Johnny Depp).
But there is a reason why it’s “pirates versus ninjas” and not “pirates/ninjas versus Texas rangers”, does the audience really care? Will the western genre go over the top? Can it? Come Hallowe’en are we going to see more masked vigilantes or Tontos? In recent history, a majority of the keyed in western films have grossly underperformed, Wild Wild West (1999), Cowboys & Aliens (2011), and even a low budget Jonah Hex (2010) failed to meet or account for the box office draw their studios would’ve wanted (I’m hesitant to include 2012’s Django Unchained here, not as underperforming, but shoehorning it in the typical Hollywood-esque western film). Or maybe they’ve all just been bad films, maybe they needed a titular western-style character (aka Mr. Lone Ranger, sir, please save us) to help push the audience over. However, when I walked out of the theatre I didn’t see that, didn’t feel it, or want it. It was just a pleasant notion that the movie was mildly entertaining and a sense of “how was that movie – that – long?”.
So when The Lone Ranger as a big budget film is not performing so well at the box office, I’m sorry to say – it’s kind of expected, or better yet, not a surprise. Or maybe the surprise is because of everyone involved, how could they have failed? Perhaps it’s new ground for Disney, in maybe their own subtle (or maybe grand) hope to corner all the intellectually themed properties. They have Star Wars; they have Marvel now, but in respect to films that didn’t work, their John Carter (2012) missed its mark and to have the same thing happen two summers in a row with The Lone Ranger. It definitely has to be worrying (for what’s it is worth I’m in the camp that loved John Carter) on the Disney side.
As an audience we tend to speak with our wallets. So if you do ever feel so inclined to watch The Lone Ranger, I do so with the recommendation that cheap ticket Tuesday is the cost/worth of its admission. You’ll walk away with a mild sense of entertainment, thankful you paid half-price, and thankful it wasn’t in 3D (no one wants to pay that surcharge).
I give The Lone Ranger a soft 6 out of 10.