The Lone Ranger

The Lone Ranger ★★★★

"People think you are dead. Better you stay that way."
"You want me to wear a mask?"
"There come a time, when good man must wear mask."

Well damn, I enjoyed this movie immensely. Never judge a blockbuster by its numbers, or lack of numbers. If I can pinpoint any reason why this was a flop at the box office, I'd have to attribute it to false advertising. The trailers makes this look like just another two and a half-hour romp, a zany and crazy action comedy with nonstop CGI and huge blockbuster moments. While it has those moments to it, they're quite rare, and it truly has a lot more to offer.

The story begins in 1933 where a small boy dressed as the Lone Ranger comes to a carnival. He walks into a tent that's an old historical museum, and there he encounters a very old indian, Tonto. Tonto begins to tell the tale of how he rode with the real Lone Ranger a long time ago, of how they got involved in a web of conspiracies over treasure, land and the lives of many men and women. Perhaps it's all a tall tale though? You decide..

I think this is Gore Verbinski's best since the original Pirates of the Caribbean, and you can tell it has a lot in common with that movie, but in the best way. The handsome man and his zany sidekick (actual leading man?) portrayed in a somewhat mysterious and quirky manner by Johnny Depp (covered in costume and makeup), a hunt for cursed silver or gold, some physically revolting bad guys, a fair lady that is caught up in it all, animals misbehaving..you name the trope, it's all here. But the movie actually has great heart and soul, it's really about a time of great change for everyone involved - Dan loses his brother and becomes a spirit walker, Tonto is on his own quest (unknown to us at first), the railroads are taking over the lands, and the Asians and Indians are just obstacles in the way to be cleared whenever possible. There's a great bittersweet sense throughout the film that the power of nature will soon be thwarted by the power of man.

I put a lot of emphasis on this when I watch movies, but I just love when they're well filmed, and this is one of the most incredibly well photographed films of 2013. It shares the merit alongside The Great Gatsby, but while a majority of that was achieved in a computer, most of this film is achieved in beautiful untouched landscapes (it was shot in Utah). Every aspect, from the barren wastelands of the desert, to the low hanging clouds and mountain ranges really commandeer a great deal of the frame, and every single moment is a gorgeous joy to behold. Not only do they happen to have filmed most of it in great natural scenery, but it's also got marvellous visual composition, notice just how well Verbinski uses the wide frame and how securely he places his actors to portray the story in the best way possible.

Even though there's more to The Lone Ranger and Tonto than just jokes, there are plenty of them as well. This is definitely a perfect flick to see with your whole family. I watched it with my sister and we both had a great time laughing like lunatics time and time again. What I particularly noticed is how quickly the film can change from dark, serious and emotional (sometimes downright grim) to very silly and comedic without losing the audience. That's a rare feat, but you could definitely argue that this film doesn't find a middle ground, it's about heightened drama (it lays it on thick) and very sudden over-the-top jokes and laughs. Still, it's a blockbuster, not a foreign Academy Award-winning drama film, and to me this juggling act works beautifully. I enjoyed both aspects of it a lot. Perhaps some moments tend to get just a bit long and serious before all the humor is suddenly piled on again though.

You could make a case for Johnny doing exactly the same old tired routine that he's been doing for the past decade now, and you'd be right, he is, but he's got a great character to do it with Tonto. He finds a balance between the serious and the comedic, he never quite turns into a stereotype but he's also never dull, he always pulls the viewer in to see what he'll do next. Is Armie Hammer such a great Lone Ranger then? I think he pulls it off well, a more serious and morally bound man than Tonto, he still manages to get his own moments across without ruining Johnny's thing or without us completely ignoring him. I wouldn't say he's the best leading man in all of creation, but he does a good job, certainly good enough for the film to work and be enjoyable.

The Lone Ranger can be more than a handful for a lot of people, it is rather exhaustive with its 150 minute running time (with a great deal of the action saved for the last 20 or so), but compare it with such an overblown bore as The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey and it feels like it's over in a flash. Simply put: If you like Johnny and you enjoyed the first Pirates movie, you should feel right at home here. It doesn't innovate, in fact it's almost precisely the same movie with a different setting, but it still plays to its strengths - being a fun, gorgeous and sweeping blockbuster for the whole family (save perhaps the youngest children, there are scenes where organs are forcibly removed from dead bodies). Oh, and if you stay a while during the end credits you'll get a very nice and bittersweet coda. It encapsulates the entire movie and yet again shows there's a bit more heart to it than just two guys caught up in a bunch of silly action adventures.

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