***Spoilers ahoy! No, I’m not going to give away the ending to the movie, not that there’s really anything to “give away”, except that despite how it may feel at times, yes, the movie does eventually end, but I will be discussing a couple of specific plot points that could definitely fall into spoiler territory, and since the movie is just now hitting theaters, it seems appropriate to throw up the warning, just in case.***
Y’know, there are really only two things wrong with Gore Verbinski and Jerry Bruckheimer’s The Lone Ranger. Unfortunately, those two things are the Lone Ranger and Tonto. If you take them out of the mix, you actually have, I think, the makings of a pretty good western here.
Of course, since the title of the film is The Lone Ranger, you really can’t do that, I guess.
Okay, let’s just go ahead and get right to it. Yes, the movie is overblown and overlong. There is no reason that a Lone Ranger movie really needs to have cost a reported $250 million dollars. Nor does it need to run 149 minutes. I have to admit there was more than once while I was watching it that I was checking my watch and wondering “Is this thing anywhere near done?”.
But really, those are not the biggest problems with the movie. Instead, the real problems lie in the choices made in the portrayal of the lead characters. And unlike something like this year’s Man of Steel, where the problems with the movie obviously go all the way down to the script level, it’s a little harder to know just who to blame for the faults of this flick.
First, of course, there’s the titular lead of the movie, the Ranger himself. Armie Hammer’s performance is so all over the place that one kind of gets the feeling that he has no idea what kind of movie he’s in, nor really, what kind of character he’s supposed to be playing. There are times when he seems to be going for the book-smart idealistic but naive type, and others where he just comes across as a complete idiot. Then, suddenly, when he’s asked to fill the actual hero role, his gunslinging/horesback riding/survival skills are suddenly ramped up to unbelievable proportions. The movie, of course, tries to explain this away with some jibber-jabber about him being a “spirit walker” because he has been dead and come back, but it’s never really made clear whether we’re actually supposed to buy into that or whether all of that is merely delusional on the part of Tonto, or what.
Oh, yeah, and as far as Tonto goes, well, you know the saying about wanting to have your cake and eat it too? Well this movie apparently also wants us to buy it its own bakery. Beyond Depp’s constant winking, sneering, and nodding to the camera as if he’s simply above the material he’s been given, beyond his constant ticks and twitches which he has to develop anytime he’s trying to delineate a character nowadays (seriously, somebody just hand him a washrag and never let him near the makeup tray again) as opposed to actually, y’kmow, acting, beyond the feyness that he seemingly has to inflict upon the character every time it seems like we’re almost going to get to see Tonto be the warrior we actually want him to be, there’s the fact that the movie itself simply doesn’t seem to be able to decide whether Tonto is, indeed, a great tracker and warrior who is more in touch with the great spirit and the supernatural side of Native American life or if he’s simply a delusional survivor who blames himself for the slaughter of his own tribe and is suffering from an extreme case of post traumatic stress disorder. (Seriously, that’s one of the explanations that we’re given for his behavior in this movie.)
And really, I suppose, looking back at those last two paragraphs, they really both cite the problem at the heart of this movie. It simply doesn’t know what kind of film it wants to be. Is it a toned down “superhero” flick? Is it a western? Is it a comedy? Is it just a straightfoward action-adventure blockbuster? I don’t really know, and apparently neither did anyone else associated with it. Tonally, it’s simply all over the place. It actually starts out quite promising, and like I said above, the first 30-40 minutes seemed to be promising a well presented modern take on the western adventure style flick, and even Armie Hammer, who I slagged on above seems to understand where he fits in it, and that section works just fine.
It’s only after that, after the ambush that leads to the “creation” of the Lone Ranger that things go to hell pretty quickly, and it’s really all down hill from there. Oh, and just for the record, simply pointing out that a plot hole exists is not the same thing as actually closing that hole.
Look, I could keep going on for paragraph after paragraph about what is wrong with this movie, but that bottom line is this: if you haven’t already had enough of Johny Depp prancing around doing yet another take on his “Johnny Depp in makeup” character, if you want to another “Pirates of the Caribbean” movie that substitutes the American plains for the sea, if you want yet another origin story for a character that really doesn’t need his origin told in this much depth again (especially one that can’t even decide what that origin or the character actually is), if you’re looking for another movie that’s really twice as long as it needs to be, and if you want to hear the iconic William Tell Overture played out overly loud during the entire climax of the movie in a way that even it seems to go on forever, then there’s a chance that you might really, really enjoy this flick.
Otherwise, I’d say hop onto your white horse, yell “Hi-Yo Silver, Away!”, and point him in any direction other than the theater where this mess is playing.
- THE LONE RANGER Movie Review: Who Ruined That Masked Man? (badassdigest.com)
- Review: The Lone Ranger (thefocusedfilmographer.com)