I saw the new “Lone Ranger” movie and it’s every bit as awful as the reviews have said. There’s an enormous train wreck at the end, a potent metaphor for what this movie is. It’s amazing the amount of time, money and talent wasted by a group of people who made a Lone Ranger movie and elected to trash the Lone Ranger and Tonto characters and everything they represent.
That groaning sound you’re hearing is not Clayton Moore turning over in his grave. Rather, it’s Walt Disney doing the honors, whose company logo tops “The Lone Ranger.” Walt may have had his faults, but he was a very smart businessman and would never have countenanced the treatment the Lone Ranger and Tonto get here.
Some may say this material needs to be re-fashioned for a more contemporary audience. Perhaps, but this is not the way to do it. The Lone Ranger and Tonto were best friends, extremely loyal, and had each other’s back at all times.
Here, in director Gore Verbinski’s re-imagining, John Reid, The Lone Ranger (a very bland Armie Hammer) and Tonto (Johnny Depp) barely tolerate each other. Such ideas as honor, duty and loyalty are lampooned. When Tonto drags an unconscious Lone Ranger behind him through a pile of horse manure I knew the film had nothing but contempt for its characters, and I was in for the long haul. .
No, I take that back. Before that there’s an early scene where John Reid is on a train and a religious service is going on. A woman asks him if he would like to pray with them. He holds a copy of “Two Treatises of Government” by John Locke and tells her, “This is my Bible.”
Yep, Hollywood gets another slam in against religion, even though it’s a complete turn around for a character who would never say such a thing.
Now, I’ve never been a fan of Gore Verbinski, a director who never shot a foot of film he didn’t feel he should include in the final cut. I did enjoy his “The Ring” (2002) and “The Weather Man” (2008), but have little good to say anything good about any of his Pirates of the Caribbean movies –soulless, depressing movies with about 30 minutes of barely-interesting plot stretched over the course of what, eight hours?
“The Lone Ranger” offers more of the same, a butt-numbing 149 minutes of meandering scenes, a dull framing story and a lot of incidents that could easily have trimmed with no loss to the movie.
For example, there’s a scene where John Reid wakes up and finds himself atop a wooden platform built on top of a very high narrow rock formation. Why? What’s the purpose of the scene? Why would anyone build a platform like that on a rock? No doubt Verbinski liked the visual of a platform built on the formation, but I thought of the time and energy spent building this prop and then having it serve no purpose was a complete waste of time and money.
Helena Bonham Carter is on hand as a madam and her scenes could easily have been cut and no one the wiser. She has a prosthetic leg that she contains a shotgun and she shoots if off at the conclusion to serve as a distraction but for the life of me I can’t figure out who she was helping and why. No doubt left over from an earlier version of the screenplay.
Also left over is a bizarre scene involving rabbits with elongated fangs which comes out of nowhere and I wish it had stayed there.
But it is the complete emasculation of everything that makes The Lone Ranger that was the deal breaker for me. Here he’s a boob, who can barely ride a horse until the final spectacular action sequence, when suddenly he’s the champion rider of all time.
Silver, his horse, seems to possess supernatural characteristics as well. I guess one can’t have an entertainment of this kind without a supernatural element added for the kids in the audience.
I will say the final action scene is at least well shot and edited, even if it monumentally stupid with the Lone Ranger and Silver galloping not only on top of a speeding train, but jumping railroad cars and racing inside the carriage itself. Who comes up with this stuff? Just because you can show something doesn’t mean you should.
Finally, in this sequence, the William Tell Overture kicks in and I felt a surge of excitement. Finally (there’s that word again), after more than two hours to get what we paid our ticket for. But then he had to ride that horse on the train and I gave up.
I like Johnny Depp – he’s the only aspect of the Pirates movies I like though I abhor the rest – and think he’s actually quite good here. But I think it’s the wrong character in this movie. Tonto has some scenes where he’s so dimwitted it borders on the offensive. Tonto is not Jack Sparrow. This is one time when Depp’s instincts failed him.
A minor spoiler ahead but the final scene has the Lone Ranger yell out his famous trademark “Hi Yo Silver Away” only to cut to a furious Tonto snarling, “Don’t ever do that again.” The Lone Ranger bashfully says he won’t. See, the filmmakers even feel superior to the famous catchphrase. (Admittedly, that scene did get a big laugh from the audience I saw it with, but I was cringing in my chair).
And even over the end credits the audience gets cheated. We think there’s going to be some sort of bonus scene during the end credits, which seems to be the norm these days. We see Tonto as an old man walking towards Monument Valley and as the credits play he keeps walking into the distance. And that’s it. Lots of walking, with no point. Much like “The Lone Ranger.”
Oddly, I didn’t feel angry when exiting the auditorium, as I do when I see really bad movies. But I did feel sadness. Sadness that the movies don’t believe in heroes anymore and think its OK that such qualities as honor, duty, dignity and responsibility can not be part of a screen character. That a character who has exhibited those qualities in the past is now portrayed as a clown who can barely ride a horse.
Awhile ago there was talk that Robert Downey, Jr. would appear as Perry Mason, in a movie set in the 1930s.I haven’t heard anything about it since, so I wonder if it may ever come to pass. Still, after watching “The Lone Ranger” I can only imagine what they will come up.
Let’s see, how about Perry Mason and Paul Drake as lovers. When Perry hires a new secretary, Della Street, and engages in an affair with her, Paul exhibits signs of raging jealousy. One night he threatens to kill Della if she won’t leave Perry alone. When Della winds up murdered, and Paul is accused of the crime, aspiring assistant district attorney Hamilton Burger, who has eyes to become the next district attorney, sees Paul’s conviction as his ticket to the top. In a race against time, Perry must find the real killer to clear Paul, and stop Hamilton from finding out about Perry’s and Paul’s illicit relationship.
It sounds preposterous I know, but I wouldn’t put it past the wonder kids of Hollywood today. If you had told me one day a studio would make a Lone Ranger movie where the Lone Ranger and Tonto can’t stand each other, I would have said it sounds like an idea “Saturday Night Live” would put on during the last 10 minutes of the show.
I don’t like to see any movie fail, but I’m glad this one did. I hope some heads roll. I hope whoever decided that the Lone Ranger and Tonto should be lampooned is denied studio access for the rest of their careers.
I wish someone had looked at the marvelous “The Mask of Zorro” (1998) re-boot and said, see, this how we can make a movie respecting an old-time hero while freshening it for new audiences. I wish someone had screened them “Captain America: The First Avenger” (2011) to show a protagonist believing in his country, duty and doing the right thing could easily resonate with audiences and not condescend to them.
“The Lone Ranger”, of all characters, should be a strong antidote to our cynical times. What a shame Verbinski & Co. didn’t realize this.