Monday, August 5, 2013

The Lone Ranger (2013)


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.


Jeff Flugel said...

Yeah, I was tempted to see this, because I love westerns and this is the closest we've had in theaters for quite a spell...but the Gore Verbinski/PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN connection made me wary, and reviews like yours have turned me off the film completely. I don't mind Johnny Depp doodling around as Tonto, but like you, I'm not pleased to have the Lone Ranger made into a boob and butt of jokes. I will probably check this out when it hits rental.

Thanks for the concise warning post, Kevin!

Kevin Deany said...

Jeff, I know what you mean, I try to support all the westerns when they come out. I just hope this doesn't keep producers from making them. It's not the genre's fault that "The Lone Ranger" laid such an egg, it's a complete misunderstanding of what your main characters are about.

There is another western coming out in future, called "The Homesman" starring and directed by Tommy Lee Jones, along with Hilary Swank and Meryl Streep. I read the book and think it will make a splendid movie. Keeping my fingers crossed.

ClassicBecky said...

I haven't seen the movie and don't plan to, but I've read a lot about it, seen trailers, and I have a feeling you are right on the money. Why can't we have heroes anymore? Because nobody believes in those kind of values, or at least the vast majority of the studios' target audience...which, I'm sad to say, doesn't appear to be me, or you, Kevin.

Religion bashing, hero bashing, mockery of a friendship that in its time was a step forward, making fun of everything that occurred before 1990 -- not my idea of a good Lone Ranger movie. Oh man, I had to laugh at your Perry Mason scenario! When I got older, I always thought Della arrived at Perry's beck and call very quickly, and figured there was some dallying going on, but it was subtle and sort of funny. Good review, Kevin!

Kevin Deany said...

Becky, I'm making my way through all of the Perry Mason novels, and in the early books Perry is much more of a rogue and there is a romantic element between him and Della. I think in one of the books they are on a cruise somewhere and he proposes to her.

Their relationship became much more businesslike, though still with a great deal of affection, as the books progressed. The TV show seems to mirror those later books.

I too thought the Lone Ranger and Tonto's friendship to a generation of kids growing up in the 1950s, could only have had a positive influence on them.

The Lady Eve said...

I've only seen the first Pirates movie and didn't think much of it, but I didn't realize the director of that franchise was at the helm of this Lone Ranger misadventure. Knowing that and having read your review, I won't be seeing this one anytime soon, if at all.

Thought your imaginative plot for a possible Perry Mason movie would probably get a green light in today's Hollywood. Maybe you ought to move west, Kevin...

Caftan Woman said...

You have confirmed every depressing thought that came to me watching "The Lone Ranger" trailer. Very sad indeed.

It's going to take a while, if ever, to get that Perry Mason scenario of yours out of my head.

Patti said...

Well, Kevin, I must warn you, this is a long comment.

First, I must admit that I haven't even heard of this movie. I know, that makes me sound like I'm totally out of the loop, which would be the truth. I don't watch much TV, so I haven't seen it advertised, and while my kids watch TV and go to movies, this is not one they've mentioned.

I, myself, almost never watch current films. (It is a family tradition to go to the movies on Christmas Day, and that is the only reason I go.) I have pretty much thrown current films out because I have to do too much research (IMDB, Plugged In, etc.) to determine if the language and nudity levels preclude me from seeing it. I generally don't want to see anything badly enough to do the research or sit through the junk.

Anyhow, I am agreeing with you wholeheartedly about the absurdity of creating a movie in which Tonto and the Lone Ranger have an adversarial relationship. Not sure why the producers felt the need to destroy something solid and good.

In her comment, Classic Becky makes mention of society not being able to have heroes anymore. That reminded me of a quote I discovered in James Cagney's autobiography...

After talking a bit about Babe Ruth, Cagney writes: "It may be hard for young people to get such a kick now because I sense in America these years---and I'm saddened to say it---I sense a systematic attempt to tear down our heroes... If ever our country needed heroes, it is in these melancholy days (he wrote this in 1976), and when I hear of things like the broadcast not long ago that said Thomas Jefferson slept with his slave girls, I am depressed. Maybe Jefferson did, maybe he didn't; in any case, why drag that in? What does that have to do with the greatness of this man? I've seen announcement of a projected story on George Washington purporting to prove he was drunk when he instigated a massacre of some French troops. This robbing us of our heroes is the heritage of some fine so-called liberal thinking that tries to kill one of the finest things we possess---warrantable pride in our past..."

Cagney wrote those words in much more do we now like to tear people down, point out the flaws, make them bad, and otherwise, remove heroes from existence.

Kevin Deany said...

Eve, if there is a new Perry Mason movie does get made with a similar scenario, I will probably never set foot in a movie theater again.

CW, sorry for the mental image. So emasculated is the Lone Ranger here that I was thinking about what the geniuses in Hollywood would do next.

Patti, that's a very interesting quote from Cagney, and so prescient. Thanks for posting that. There are some good family-type movies that come out occasionally, but you have to search for them, especially this year. Unlike last year, which I thought was a really strong year, this year has been really lacking. Even the usually reliable Pixar released a yawner in "Monsters University."

Patrick said...

Unfortunately, given what Andrew Garfield said about Spiderman (quote below for those who missed it), your scenario for a possible Perry Mason movie isn't really that outlandish.

In an interview with Entertainment Weekly, Garfield claimed that, during a conversation with The Amazing Spiderman‘s producer Matt Tolmach, the subject of Peter Parker’s sexuality was broached. When talking about Mary Jane Watson (Parker’s love interest), Garfield said, “What if MJ is a dude? Why can’t we discover that Peter is exploring his sexuality? It’s hardly even groundbreaking! … So why can’t he be gay? Why can’t he be into boys?”

Kevin Deany said...

Hi Patrick, thanks for chiming in. I hadn't read that quote. Sigh. I can understand updating some characters to an extent, as long as they remain true to the character's cores.

I guess that's why I don't mind the Universal Sherlock Holmes movies updated to the mid-20th century. The essences of the characters are there. I understand the BBC "Sherlock" series also is successful in this regard. I really should check those out sometime.

I do miss the gaslit atmosphere of Victorian England however, and prefer the Holmes movies that seek to retain that flavor, even though set in the 20th century.

The makers of the new "Lone Ranger" movie, unfortunately, did not seem fit to recall what makes the characters so memorable in the first place. Thanks for writing, Patrick.

Anonymous said...

Well, I liked the movie. I do think that overall, a lot of the character traits for John Reid were kept in tact. I don't think it was exactly like the show.
But really now. Who wants to watch a re-tooled movie that is EXACTLY like the black and white TV show or the radio show, for that matter?
What is the point of that? That IMO is what would have been a waste of money. I enjoyed the movie for what it was-fun. I also knew going in it would not be the same as the show. I was okay with that. More importantly, this is an ORIGIN story. Unfortunately it likely won't get a sequel, but if it did, we'd hopefully see the two of them as they were in the series, more as a unit instead of at odds with each other. We do see glimpses of that in the last half hour of this movie. Maybe too late for some, but again...origin story. And I think it's ludicrious to assume anyone is rolling over in their graves over a silly movie.

Kevin Deany said...

Anonymous, thanks so much for writing. I'm glad you enjoyed the movie. Quite a few people did, according to IMDB. And that's cool.

But I still think it was a wasted opportunity. As I said in my post, I can understand updating the characters, but why emasculate them in the first place. A movie like the old TV show, would not have worked. But the chemistry between the two main characters, and their friendship towards each other, could easily have been maintained.

Imagine, say, the makers of a new Batman movie deciding that Batman is an incompetent boob, Robin the smart one, and the two constantly bickering. Imagine Batman doing deeds that would put Superman to shame. The fans would be up in arms.

With "The Lone Ranger" we get two characters who don't like each other, in a muddled story with little action (director Verbinski should take a couple of courses on story construction) and when it does come, it becomes very silly with Silver and the Lone Ranger galloping across a moving train. It's beyond stupid.

If you are ever so inclined, check out a terrific western called "When the Daltons Rode" from 1941, with Randolph Scott, which features a train holdup which must run 10-15 minutes and features some of the greatest stunt sequences I've ever seen. "The Lone Ranger" could have had some equally amazing train stunts but not be so over the top that it defies credibility.

We think we live in a more enlightened age, but the television show had a unique partnership, and friendship, between a white man and an Indian. I wonder how many kids saw that and subconsciously thought that people of different backgrounds could be friends.

Instead, the new "Lone Ranger" takes a couple of giant steps backwards and showing the Lone Ranger and Tonto being barely civil to each other and frankly contemptuous of each other.

And the visual of someone rolling over in their grave was hardly meant to be taken literally.

Still, I'm glad you and others enjoyed the movie. Every movie has its partisans. Lord knows I love some movies that others can barely abide.

But I can imagine someone who had no pre-conceived notion of who the Lone Ranger and Tonto and seeing this movie for the first time. They would have no understanding how the Lone Ranger became so popular in the first place.

As I said earlier, what a wasted opportunity.

Silver Screenings said...

I am so relieved to hear you & others say they didn't enjoy the "Pirates" movies. I couldn't even make it through the first one, and I thought I was the only person on the planet who didn't like them.

It's hard to find a review with anything good to say about the new Lone Ranger. I think I'll pass -- thanks for saving me some money! :)

Classicfilmboy said...

This sounds dreadful, and your points are well-taken. It's yet another in a long line of films attached to something without anyone thinking about a storyline to go with it. "We'll remake The Lone Ranger and get Johnny Depp" as if this is all you need for a successful movie. Frankly, I'll be more blunt: I'm glad it failed, because it demonstrates that moviegoers aren't stupid cattle ready to feast on anything that's given to them.

Kevin Deany said...

SS, I have a terrible confession to make. I've never seen the first Pirates movie in its entirety. The first time I fell asleep in the theater before it was over. When it later appeared at my local second run theater, I said I would give it another shot. The same thing happened. I think its the only time that's ever happened.

I went to the see the sequels out of sheer curiosity. Why were these so popular? They just kept getting longer, and dopier. If there is a new one, I'll probably take a pass.

CFB, thanks for your nice note. Yeah, I'm glad it failed too. Hopefully Hollywood may learn something from this, but I doubt it. I've been amused by recent comments from stars Depp and Hammer, blaming the critics for the film's bad reception.

As John Wayne famously says in "Big Jake", "Not Hardly."

Jerry Watt said...

Hi Kevin,
I didn't hate the movie. I was simply disappointed that it was nothing more than a spoof.

I grew up listening to the radio episodes-- even had my own Lone Ranger Decoder Ring.

This film didn't exactly trash the soul of the story of an old West hero, it trivialized it. What a stupid (and costly) thing to do.

Kevin, you nailed this review right where it should be: Tagged to the door of Verbinski's office.

I'm signing up as a follower. Keep up the great reviews.
Gerald Watt

Kevin Deany said...

Thank you, Father. I'm glad you liked the post and agree "The Lone Ranger" was a wasted opportunity. I hope you enjoy past and future posts.

Page said...

Oh, Kev!
I wish I could blame this fiasco on Tim Burton but we can't this go around!

I do appreciate your honest review and I did go and see it because I wanted so much for Depp to have a film that proved his critics wrong. It wasn't to be!

What a waste of subject matter! Do we blame it on the choice of going with Disney?

All the same. I didn't care for it and I enjoyed your review. : )

Kevin Deany said...

Page, I don't know if Disney is to blame as much as Verbinski and the folks at Jerry Bruckheimer Productions, who seemed to think they were superior to the material. A more condescending film I haven't seen all year.