Movie Review: The Lone Ranger
Pros:It has a good ending, Verbinski has a talent for crafting impressive (if overlong) action sequences, its visuals suggest a clear knowledge and respect for cinema’s past.
Cons:It’s simply as dumbed down as a movie can get, Armie Hammer does not convince in the leading role, the characters are indistinct and uninteresting.
Despite some well-crafted action sequences, The Lone Ranger is ultimately an overlong, indulgent mess.
The best kids’ films are filled with intelligence and always encompass the type of subtle moments that adult viewers invariably appreciate, while still seamlessly making sense to the target audience – Wall-E, Toy Story and pretty much any movie made by pre-Cars Pixar are all cases in point. However, intelligence and subtlety are two qualities which The Lone Ranger, Disney’s latest offering, conspicuously lacks.
The film, directed by Gore Verbinski of The Pirates of the Caribbean fame, represents a modern update of the iconic, eponymous hero, who previously entertained radio and TV audiences, for three decades from the 1930s on. It somewhat pointlessly begins in 1933 at a Wild West-themed fairground, whereby an idle young boy comes across an old and bedraggled-looking Native American by the name of Tonto. The latter character consequently proceeds to tell the unduly long story of his adventures with the Lone Ranger.
The plot then reverts back to the 1860s, with John Reid, a young lawyer, returning to his hometown of Texas by train. Amid the journey, Butch Cavendish, a criminal who has been captured by the authorities and is due to be hanged, manages to escape after being rescued by compatriots. Consequently, John, along with his brother Dan and a gang of volunteers, elect to hunt down these vicious outlaws. Nevertheless, their plan backfires, as all of them bar John end up murdered by Cavendish and his men. Tonto saves the protagonist however, enabling the two to subsequently seek revenge for these callous atrocities.
Even though The Lone Ranger’s story is relatively straightforward, it takes a remarkably long time to establish the main plot line. Its running time is 149 minutes, but with a good editor, there’s no reason why it couldn’t have been half that length and considerably more watchable as a result. Even the action sequences, though they are relatively well executed and superbly contrived on a technical level, invariably outstay their welcome – to the point where, eventually, they are more likely induce yawns rather than thrills.
Furthermore, the scenes in the fairground featuring the child and Tonto are clearly intended to serve as a light, humorous and sporadic alternative to the more serious and occasionally quite violent main story. However, the relationship between the two is distinctly unremarkable. Not only does it fail to elicit any laughs, it’s entirely free of any amusing or memorable moments, thus rendering it more or less entirely redundant.
Similarly, as part of the central plot, it is established fairly early on that John Reid is smitten with his brother’s wife, and Dan even improbably gives his blessing to their relationship as part of his dying words (the ‘profound’ on-the-verge-of-death speech is one of the countless moments in this movie that feels as if it’s been recycled from a million other equally witless films).
And the two aforementioned incidences epitomise the core problem with the film. Gore Verbinski suffers from the same issue as late period George Lucas – while on a technical level, the movie is relatively impressive and encompasses some nice visual references to the films of past masters such as John Ford and Buster Keaton; there is still little that is recognisably human about it. You simply don’t care enough about the poorly drawn characters, a fact which is not helped by Armie Hammer’s bland performance as the Lone Ranger. Jonny Depp, meanwhile, inevitably cannot emulate the comedic success of his most famous creation, Captain Jack Sparrow. While he attempts to bring a similar level of humour to the role of Tonto, with his perpetually deadpan/stoned-looking expression and cantankerous quips (he refers to the Lone Ranger as “kemo sabe” and when asked what it means, he says “wrong brother”), the script ultimately gives him too little to do, prompting the nagging feeling that his talent is being wasted.
Most jarringly of all, even for a Hollywood blockbuster, the film has an extremely low IQ. The portraits of many of its characters are stereotypical beyond belief – Tanto, like most movie Native Americans, is basically a well-meaning though highly uncivilised brute, as indicated by the dead bird he perpetually wears on his head. Moreover, every line in the entire movie seems to have been written with the explicit purpose of ensuring a five-year-old child knows exactly what’s going on at all times. And in case they get bored, there seems to be a new action sequence every 15 minutes, to the point of extreme over-indulgence.
On the plus side, the film’s rousing climax is performed with considerable gusto and features the best use of ‘The William Tell Overture’ since A Clockwork Orange, and though it may awake viewers from their slumber, it comes too late to revive the film itself.