The Lone Ranger

The Lone Ranger ★★★½

Film #13 of my Hanging Out with Disney project

(From The Lone Ranger soundtrack;

This was almost exactly my first reaction when I first heard that Disney spent $250 million to make a Lone Ranger movie: "Are you freakin kidding me? There is no way anyone in this generation is going to see this. Only baby boomers who grew up with the show are going to go out and see this in theaters, but that's not many people. Yep, this is going to flop." And sure enough, it not only flopped, but it featured some of the worst reviews of 2013 and led to producer Jerry Bruckheimer to end his partnership with Disney (though they'll still make more Pirates films I'm told). I watched The Lone Ranger in theaters last year, and thought it as solid entertainment though seriously flawed. And after another year, yeah, it's still solid entertainment though seriously flawed.

John Reid is a by-the-book, pro-democracy lawyer who heads out to the Wild West to promote justice, on the brink of the creation of the railroad. When a notorious criminal on the loose, Reid is deputized as Texas ranger and heads out with his posse, including his Marshal brother, to track the bandits down, which leads to a massive ambush and the death of all the rangers... except Reid, who's rescued by a Native American named Tonto. Tonto convinces him to become an outlaw and fight justice to defeat the bad guys, but even though Reid is anti-violent and pro-American democracy, when the situations get more complicated, it's up to our "Lone Ranger" and our Indian sidekick to protect Indian treaties and solve the railroad debate while stopping the villains out to cause mass genocide on innocent people.

When The Lone Ranger flopped last year and received all that hate from critics, many of the crew went out of their way to defend it, with Bruckheimer going as far as to say that they were solely reviewing the budget. Even Disney knew they were taking a risk when making it; heck they almost shut the production down when they feared the film was going over-budget. But if World War Z was able to gain a huge audience and box-office numbers even with troubling production, then The Lone Ranger can do the same.

Again, I do think the main reason the film flopped was mainly the fact that no kid in today's time even cares about the character, no have ever heard of the original show. But in all respect, they do a solid job at reinventing the character to modern audiences. Now I'm not familiar with the original show, but as I recall the episodes I did see where hugely dated and extremely corny, so yeah, a reinvention was definitely necessary. The tone is surprisingly darker for a Disney film, especially in PG-13 standards; the villain is a sick cannibal who eats people's hearts out (maybe the actor watched way too much Temple of Doom before making this film), and there's plenty of political subtexts involving building the railroad as part of domination and an Indian battle that leads to mass genocide. And you know what, much of it works. The film is narrated by an elderly Tonto s he recounts his experiences to a young boy at a western exhibit. Last year I complained hat it hurt the narrative flow and was painfully annoying to watch, but looking back, I think putting that in is clever. We're not sure if the story is 100% true or not, but Tonto is feeling the pain at much of the horror he experiences in his point-of-view. It's actually very poignant when you think about it.

In spite of all the surprisingly darker elements, The Lone Ranger still adds a ton of fun to the mix, as expected with many Jerry Bruckheimer productions. The film was directed by Gore Verbinski, director of the first three Pirates films and Rango, and continues to have fun with each project he does; this being no exception. There's some excellent action set-pieces in this, two of which involve the railroad, and it's fun. Usually after the film goes into the serious, dark route, we're treated to scene that's extremely hilarious and awesome to watch. And that lies directly in the excellent chemistry between Armie Hammer as The Lone Ranger and Johnny Depp as Tonto. They're giving excellent dialogue to work around and every time Depp goes into weirdo mode, which includes talking to a dead bird and a "spirit horse", it's Hammer's reactions that make the humor great, even if his accent's a little corny. Then we get to the climax, where there's not only one, but two runaway trains, and it's intense, hilarious, and freakin awesome at the same time!

If Armie Hammer and Johnny Depp play off each other very well, how do the rest of the cast hold up? Fairly good, for the most part. I'll make it clear already; Helena Bonham Carter's role was completely pointless. Her accent's terrible and she does absolutely nothing but look sexy, and even that's creepy to look at! I admit I liked that whole gun-leg thingy, and I do think Carter's a great actress, but yeah, she sucked terribly here. On the flipside, the villain's very intimidating, Tom Wilkinson's great as always, and Barry Pepper has a fun supporting role as a Calvary man. The female lead didn't have the best acting, but her character's so-so. The child actor playing her son is fantastic; there's a plot where his father (the Ranger's brother) has died and he's struggling to figure out who really killed him, all while holding a gun in his age, and he's only about 8! The scene and subject matter was very well-handled, and to give the kid credit, I liked that he was able to defend himself; there's another scene where he attacks with a slingshot, which was pretty cool. But what's even more messed up is the fact that all the cast got their butt whooped by the "spirit horse". Seriously, he's he best thing in this entire film. He's hilarious, filled with wit and oddness (he's seen drinking whiskey at one point; don't ask), and made my money's worth for sure.

And yes, the film is sill seriously flawed. As I mentioned already, Helena Bonham Carter's role is completely pointless. The pacing gets a little slow in the second act. There's a love triangle that fails miserably. There's a couple of plot-holes that make no sense. And even though I defend the Tonto narration, others will definitely find that distracting. But as a whole, The Lone Ranger is entertainment at its core. It's a clever reimagining of a classic character, it's dark, it's hilarious, the action's great like in most Bruckheimer films, the leads are excellent, the story's well-told, and Hans Zimmer's score is another excellent entry in his resume (which includes an awesome arrangement of the "William Tell Overture", which fits the character so well). With its release on DVD, I think audiences are starting to realize that the film wasn't that bad after all (want further proof, look at the reviews on Amazon), and I suspect that Disney has another cult following on its hands. Will it please everyone? No, I'm told many of the show's fans hate it, but The Movie King says give it a rent and see for yourself.

" Something very wrong with that horse. "


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