The Lone Ranger ★★★

I'm with Danny Bowes on this one. The movie is OK until the last half-hour, where it totally rocks. My rating jumped up a whole star because of that final train sequence. A few stray thoughts:

- Depp is, one the one hand, a huge problem. There's just no way around the fact that a white guy playing a "crazy" Indian sidekick in 2013 is not okay, even if it is "his" story and there's a whole meta level with the subplot about whites dressing up as Indians specifically in order to start a war with those Indians. On the other hand, this is Depp's best performance in literally decades. (Was DEAD MAN the last really good one?) Make of that what you will.

- I thought they were setting up Barry Pepper's Army officer for a last minute change of heart, perhaps a sacrificial death. He certainly felt bad about killing all those Comanches. But no. He just doubled down on his actions and ended up dying an unrepentant bad guy. Well played, sir.

- Every action sequence is well done, not just the last one. They have an obvious purpose to the story, clear spatial orientation and goals related to that space, and don't go on too long. (Well, maybe the last one, but it was so much fun I didn't care.) I have yet to see PACIFIC RIM, but so far this is the only recent Hollywood blockbuster that has had handled action sequences with craft and care. (THE WORLD'S END was quite good on this front, too, though I hesitate to label that a "Hollywood blockbuster.") The perhaps overenthusiastic pro-RANGER side of the film critic community was, I think, reacting largely to this aspect of it. It's like finding water in the desert after a long, fruitless quest.

- While I appreciate the critique of capitalism in a big studio film, I'm less surprised about it than some, since capitalism will always let you critique capitalism as long as you continue making money for capitalism. (THE LONE RANGER did not make money, obviously, but it certainly set out to do so.)

- In a summer that gave us MAN OF STEEL and STAR TREK INTO DARKNESS (which, somewhat guiltily, I still don't hate), why did THE LONE RANGER become the Great Flop of 2013? Why did it become so instantly meme-ified as a "disaster" and a "horrible movie?" My guy instinct is because there isn't a well-maintained corporate brand or fan contingent for THE LONE RANGER. MAN OF STEEL is allowed to be a horrible, ugly film and still be instantly greenlit for a sequel because there's a whole industry that relies on Superman continuing to make money, and a fanbase that is really just interested in more product, regardless of quality.

I don't mean to judge fans. As I said, I'm rather forgiving of STAR TREK INTO DARKNESS myself, mostly because I'm pretty invested in those characters and enjoy seeing them interact, no matter how atrocious the surroundings. (It helps that STAR TREK has many, many terrible episodes and movies in its various iterations over the years, so I have practice.) Almost nobody is invested in THE LONE RANGER. Surely Disney wanted to build a new franchise out of it, but it's not like Marvel or STAR WARS or Pixar's CARS or something else they own that they can pretty consistently milk money out of with a minimum of effort. And there won't be any disgruntled LONE RANGER fans starting petitions or whatever in an effort to drum up support for more RANGER stuff. There's no constituency. It's "just" a movie.

That's bad news for original blockbusters in the near future, since whatever lesson studio execs take away from THE LONE RANGER, it won't be, "Let's try something new."