Expectations play an important part in the enjoyment of a film. Sometimes one needs to know what he is in for, and I always try to see any movie’s merit (unless there is none). “The Lone Ranger” is a character that has graced radio shows, TV, and film. The last time I saw the character was in 1981’s “The Legend of the Lone Ranger” film and the Saturday morning cartoon that I only watched because it was back to back with the “Zorro” cartoon series. Needless to say, I only saw the character when I was a kid, so my expectations for a 2013 film with the character would have to come from a time when I was a child.
Well, the folks who made “Pirates the Caribbean” seek to bring back the masked cowboy in the film “The Lone Ranger”. Director Gore Verbinski and co-producer Jerry Bruckheimer probably wishes to do to “westerns’ what it did with ‘pirates’. Let’s get one thing straight, to appreciate this film, one needs to have some kind of fondness for the radio shows. This is hardly a western but rather more of a swashbuckling adventure meant for general audiences.
The film begins in 1933 San Francisco at a county fair. A young boy (Mason Cook) with a mask comes across a supposed mannequin who is revealed to be Tonto, an elderly Comanche warrior who then proceeds to recount his experience with the lawyer John Reid. John Reid (Armie Hammer) is a man who met Tonto on the way to visit his older brother Dan (James Badge Dale) during a skirmish with Butch Cavendish (William Fichtner) and his gang. This will set into motion a series of events that leaves Dan and his fellow rangers dead. This will set Tonto and John against burly railroad tycoon named Latham Cole (Tom Wilkinson).
The plot of the film is pretty light when it comes to its core. This is a film that is meant to be driven by its characters, and so the screenplay manages to do just that. I do have to admit that the film feels very cartoonish as no doubt its intention. It is a family film at heart and it seeks to exude the tone and tempo of the classic radio shows and movies. I do have to say that while I wasn’t too impressed with the movie, I did understand what it sought out to do. The direction and the screenplay tries not to take itself too seriously, and even tries to poke fun at itself. One could tell from the get-go that it was a movie designed for popcorn entertainment and made to appeal to fans of the TV series.
I suppose it would be safe to say that there were things that I found clever in the screenplay. By not taking the premise seriously, the film manages to tell itself that it is ok to be unrealistic and cartoonish. It gives that ‘is it true or not’ kind of undertone as it tells the story of a ’legend’ which may or may not be true. It allows the script to make fun of itself as it moves around in telling its story. There were nice touches to be sure, and the script incorporates elements that make it fun, a little silly at times and yet the sly wit and humor were enough to successfully dictate its pace. The action feels cartoonish and it does not pretend to be anything else. The shoot-outs could get a little outrageous at times but it was all for fun.
The set pieces and costumes were impeccably done. I did feel like I was watching a radio serial, and I was happy to see that the “Ranger” did not wear the familiar country blue shirt. The cinematography was excellent in keeping things close to the action, as things explode, go bang and then Tonto and the masked man have one narrow escape after the other. The stunts were done in a way that exuded an adventure, and the film was visually arresting. Clever wit and humor were successfully injected into the stunts. I do have to say that the tempo and style were screaming “Pirates of the Caribbean” but it did not bother me. Depp was at his element here, as he was funny and effective as the semi-mysterious Comanche warrior.
Indian legend and lore were interpreted in a manner to fit its script, and it makes things up along the way. Now there are things that I liked about that, and there were things that I found uneven. First of all, as with Kato in the recent disaster “The Green Hornet”, the title character was not as well-written as the supposed ‘sidekick’. It was bad enough that Depp had the charm and the acting skills to steal the show, and his character just manages to grab all the positive flow whenever he was on camera. I did find that Armie Hammer’s character became dull whenever he wasn’t with Tonto. It was a good thing that the antagonists played by Wilkinson and Fichtner were kind of interesting. But then they also served to make the Tonto character much more compelling than the title lead. I am not sure, it was as if all the movie’s creative juices flowed within Depp’s funny-looking, “Captain Jack Sparrow”-like Indian. Hammer’s John Reid lacked the necessary depth and whatever dimensions he had were built on cliché. Ruth Wilson’s Rebecca Reid struggled to put him on par with Depp’s Tonto. Helena Bonham Carter’s character was a little unnecessary but I guess she was there to provide ‘legged’ fun.
“The Lone Ranger” is not a bad movie, it is a summer blockbuster meant for entertainment, but it could’ve easily been called “Tonto and the Masked Man”. While I thought that the film’s high production values may be enough to carry it along, the film does also end up a little too long at almost 2 hours and 30 minutes. Depp stole the show as Tonto and his story proved to be more interesting than that of John Reid's masked man. The witty banter took over as Depp once again proved his worth as an actor. I thought the film can have its entertainment value, but it should’ve been edited to be a little shorter that it struggled to keep my attention due to its tedious runtime (the Train Chase finale was worth the price of admission though). I suppose while this film wasn’t a total failure, it sure did not do the title character any favors. That itself is its biggest flaw. Mildly Recommended but a RENTAL should suffice. [3 Out of 5 Stars]
By Joan Alperin Schwartz So you can imagine my surprise, when I sat down to watch 'The Lone Ranger' and found it filled with one joke after another...and not very funny ones. That's right guys and girls, this is an action comedy, at least according to the press notes...And there is plenty of action...Unfortunately, for me, it wasn't enough to save the film. 'The Lone Ranger' actually reminded … more
It seems like all Native America wanted to talk about this summer was "The Lone Ranger" and whether it honored or offended Native Americans. I've read articles from Native people on both sides, so I'll let my words be few on this topic. Frankly, I expected it to be worse. It makes some honest, if clumsy and possibly misguided, attempts to honor Native peoples. Its greatest sin is that it relegates Native Americans to the past. Tonto appears to be the last living Indian, … more