The Lone Ranger ReviewJuly 10, 2013
While it’s not the worst film of the year, The Lone Ranger is certainly a joyless, uninteresting and bloated mess.
Ever since Disney struck gold with Pirates of the Caribbean back in 2003, they have since been trying to replicate its successful formula. Even though I enjoyed John Carter, both it and Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time were box office disappointments to say the least. However, now that Disney has reunited Pirates of the Caribbean cohorts Johnny Depp, writing duo Ted Elliott and Terry Rossio along with Oscar-winning director Gore Verbinski (Rango), they might have another chance. Is The Lone Ranger the gem they have been desperately hoping for?
In 1869, a lawyer named John Reid (Armie Hammer) is traveling to Colby, Texas via the in-progress Transcontinental Railroad to visit his brother Dan (James Badge Dale), a Texas Ranger. On this same train, a Comanche named Tonto (Johnny Depp) and an outlaw known as Butch Cavendish (William Fichtner) are being transported to be hanged, but soon enough Cavendish’s crew take him back and the train is later derailed. John survives though, and soon afterward Dan recruits his brother as a Texas Ranger so that they can travel together to take down Cavendish. However, when a posse is formed all of the Rangers save for John are killed in a deadly ambush. From there, John swears for revenge on the blood of his brother and the other fallen Rangers and seeks to bring Cavendish to justice.
Oh my, what a travesty this film ended up being. Even with the entertaining opening and finale, The Lone Ranger is one of the worst films I have seen all year. The problem lies in the two hours in between those two setpieces. In that time, the film carries with it a very dark, brutal tone, which of course made for one of the most violent and bloody films Disney has ever released. However, the film does not know what to do with that brutality, and this tonal choice also renders the already bloated experience completely devoid of joy. It couldn’t have hurt to cut out a lot of unnecessary material, either, for it also very boring. On top of that, The Lone Ranger has a lot of story elements that simply don’t make sense, such as Tonto literally jumping 70 feet onto rock without snapping his legs. While not necessarily on the same level of idiocy as A Good Day to Die Hard and White House Down, The Lone Ranger certainly struggles to keep a coherent narrative and eventually fails at attempting to replicate what made the original Pirates of the Caribbean such a success – entertainment value. It’s unfortunate that The Lone Ranger simply doesn’t have that.
Headlining the cast is Armie Hammer in the title role, and I don’t dislike his performance. I can’t deny that I am disappointed, though, for he did not do much to actually make me care for his character, although I suppose this can be traced back to the screenplay. Sometimes an actor can elevate bad writing if they are simply a masterful thespian, but that is not the case in The Lone Ranger. Johnny Depp also provides for a few entertaining moments, but the big problem with what he brings to the picture is that it’s nothing we haven’t seen before – in fact, I’d go as far to say that his version of Tonto is simply Jack Sparrow with Comanche mannerisms. Unfortunately, none of the other cast members excel here either, for they only go as far as the dismal material allows them to go. Sure, it’s always great to see great actors such as Helena Bonham Carter, William Fichtner (who admittedly has one of the better roles here), Tom Wilkinson and James Badge Dale in a film together, I just would have preferred seeing them in a much better project.
I truly wanted to fall in love with The Lone Ranger, and that’s mainly because I like director Gore Verbinski’s body of work. While the second and third Pirates of the Caribbean films shouldn’t have happened, I love the first film and The Ring, while his animated hit Rango was my favorite movie of 2011. Thankfully for him, Verbinski made a fine-looking film, although some of the imagery isn’t exactly pleasing. Some of the CGI could have used some improvement, but otherwise The Lone Ranger features great cinematography and realistic set design. So despite the abysmal script, at least one can relish in the generally great visuals on display in The Lone Ranger. Hans Zimmer fans – myself included – will also be pleased, for his score is good enough here. The story may not provide him with many opportunities to amp up the excitement with music, but at least his rendition of the classic William Tell Overture is fantastic.
There are certainly signs of what could have been a great film here; I cannot pretend that I did not notice that while watching The Lone Ranger. Even so, the end result is nothing close to a memorable summer blockbuster, for in fact it is a poor excuse of a Western. Sporting a bloated storyline with huge tonal issues, a lack of interesting characters, along with plenty of nonsensical elements this is certainly a big disappointment from a narrative standpoint. Even a poorly written action film can be fun, but sadly The Lone Ranger doesn’t even have entertainment value. What we are left with here is a simply 2½ hour long mess, and I guarantee that once The Lone Ranger actually starts to become good in its final 15 minutes, you’ll just think to yourself “why couldn’t the rest of the film have been like that?” Believe me, I myself am still asking that same question.