The Lone Ranger ★★½

"Let's do another Pirates movie."

"But sales are waning..."

"OK, but let's not have Pirates in the title, and let's set it on a series of trains."

Accompanying my parents, both of whom were eager to see this film, I went in to the cinema with low expectations. The Lone Ranger was never on my list of to-see movies, nor did I have any nostalgic connection to the characters themselves.

I also wouldn't call myself a fan of the Verbinski/Bruckheimer/Depp school of blockbuster filmmaking, although I admit that every single instalment of the Pirates franchise was an entertaining ride, and I'm not too pompous to say that I even found them to hit comedic beats rather well. If The Lone Ranger isn't following the same formula for success - quirky Depp show-stealing side-character, vile villain, heavily characterized but two-dimensional female supporters, ridiculous physics-defying action sequences - it's at least using the same math.

Depp's got a way of presenting his characters in an unbelievable, over-the-top way that, while rewarding comedically, is incredibly difficult to engage with. He's the guy at the party that constantly inserts charmingly witty one-liners that everyone laughs at but nobody really talks to. His Tonto is inspired the exact same way as Jack Sparrow: exceptional comedic timing, immensely quirky, and given 95% of the one-liners, all of which Depp delivers perfectly. But the movie tries to make Tonto engaging in a bizarre way, as an elderly Tonto recounts the saga as part of a carnival sideshow. It makes very little sense, and the makeup does a real disservice there.

Armie Hammer plays the titular character well - actually about as interesting as you can expect a morally-focused epitome of purity to be presented - and its in his developed relationship with Tonto that we can maybe see some glimmering vestige of a hook to engage with, and the only time that Hammer's Ranger is dimensionalised. But that relationship is truly fleeting throughout the film. It's actually Fitchner's Butch Cavendish that – at least in the first two acts - does the best job of presenting a dynamic character with something below the surface. The other villains and supporting heroes and anti-heroes do their intended jobs, but rarely approach compelling.

As a story, the movie rolls along rather well throughout the first two acts, with some interesting twists and more than a few laughs. The action is rather predictable but entertainingly choreographed and although trending towards long-winded, is paced well. It's in the final act, that - minor spoiler alert - we're "treated" to an action sequence scored to the original Lone Ranger theme. And although the action sequence itself is rewarding and exciting, to the chosen score it falls apart as a hoaky, cheap commodity. Where the intended goal is to evoke nostalgia and ramp up the fun, it actually had the opposite effect to me - someone who knows what The Lone Ranger was but had no connection to it - and instantly tore me away from experiencing the climax as a tense buildup and satisfying release. Instead, I felt like I was delivered neither, and that this climax was meant for a different, perhaps older, audience.

In short, this film wasn't made for me. But despite of that, I enjoyed it more than I expected to. This is what a good big-budget blockbuster can do - it doesn't engage, but it does mindlessly entertain. That doesn't make for compelling art, but it does make for at least an hour where I'm not looking at my phone, so that's something.

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