Sunday, July 21, 2013

The Lone Ranger - Movie Review

Starring Johnny Depp, Armie Hammer, Tom Wilkinson, William Fichtner, Ruth Wilson, James Badge Dale, Barry Pepper and Helena Bonham Carter.
Directed by Gore Verbinski.


The Lone Ranger is one of those characters who's just about extinct.  I'm 40, and I barely remember him.  I mean, I know there was him and Tonto, and I'm pretty sure I saw an episode of the TV show before. I remember the Filmation cartoon from 1980 that rotated with Tarzan and Zorro.  I remember the William Tell Overture and "Heigh-ho, Silver!"  I remembered enough to know that the guy from this movie was not the Lone Ranger.

John Reid was a character who stood for justice in the Wild West.  He also abhorred killing and tried to take 'em alive whenever possible.  Maybe it today's age that seems too square or corny, whatever the word is, but rather than embrace the earnestness like in Captain America, they turn him into a sissy-man joke.  This Reid is a naive, foppish lawyer who even stand carrying a gun in a gun fight.  He's a dweeb who must be propped up by Tonto (Depp), a Comanche who has his own weird problems.

Remember Without a Clue? It was a comedic spin on Sherlock Holmes where Holmes (Michael Caine) was the face but Dr. Watson (Ben Kingsley) was the real brains behind the operation.  I wondered if this movie realized it was going the same route here. This is like a Tarzan movie that starts with him afraid of heights. (Even the poster tries to scoot him out of the picture.)

Aside from that glaring, gaping problem, for the most part I had fun at this movie.  And looking back, it was actually faithful to the source material in many other ways.  I watched the premiere episode and was delighted to see that the set-up was the same, with the group of rangers pursuing the outlaw Butch Cavendish through a canyon when they get ambushed and killed, thanks to a traitor named Collins.  The movie was even filmed in the exact same canyon as the TV show.

Reid now travels with the mask in pursuit of Cavendish. Tonto wants Cavendish caught too, for he believes him to be a wendigo, a devil who must be killed.  Meanwhile, the railroad's being built and you just know the head of the railroad company is going to wind up being the main villain that Cavendish happens to work for.  Progress, claims the movie, is evil.

Now this movie suffers the same excess problems as the Pirates of the Caribbean sequels.  It goes for 2 1/2 hours, and it could easily trimmed ten minutes here, ten minutes there.  Helena Bonham Carter's part could have been cut completely, but she is here because her soul is bound to Depp's, and it provides the opportunity for the men to visit a whorehouse.  All Westerns these days must eventually visit a whorehouse while looking for the bad guy, just like how today's detective movies always have to visit a strip-club to crack the case.

There is a moment of movie magic, when things are looking dire, when the Lone Ranger arrives to save the day and ignite our climax.  The William Tell Overture kicks in, and I got fuzzies.  We're over two hours in, and finally "The Lone Ranger" has arrived!  The final 20-minute chase scene using two trains on parallel tracks was as thrilling as any action scene in any movie the past couple summers.

Gore Verbinski, who won an Oscar for Rango, his animated Western, knows how to stage scenes and execute them.

This movie isn't as bad as some critics have been suggesting. I can't honestly call it good, but I was entertained, and I'd rather see The Lone Ranger 2 over Pirates of the Caribbean 5.

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