Walt Disney Pictures and Jerry Bruckheimer try to capture the same magic of 2003’s Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl, with a fresh take on a classic character – The Lone Ranger. Unfortunately we have seen what has happened to the swashbuckling franchise after three mediocre sequels, each one worse than its predecessor. But not unlike the ‘Pirates’ movies, that doesn’t mean there isn’t anything fun or entertaining whatsoever in Gore Verbinski’s latest film. But Disney and Bruckheimer missed the mark by a long shot, and may have ruined their chances for kick-starting a new franchise.
John Reid (Armie Hammer) is a straight-laced, by the books lawyer. Above all else, Reid believes in justice – joking at the beginning of the film that John Locke’s “Two Treatises of Government” is his bible. His brother Dan (James Badge Dale), on the other hand, doesn’t use books to enforce the law as a United States Ranger. After notorious criminal Butch Cavendish (William Fichtner) narrowly escapes the hangman’s noose, Dan and his fellow rangers ride across the desert to bring him back to justice. John goes along for the ride, feeling some responsibility for letting Cavendish’s escape. Unfortunately for the group, they ride right into a setup – where all of the rangers, including Dan, are killed. That is except for one “Lone Ranger,” John, who is revived by a peculiar Comanche Indian named Tonto (Johnny Depp). The two of them become partners with the same goal – to track down Butch Cavendish and bring him to justice for what he has done to both of their families.
One thing that makes the film seem a bit strange is having Tonto as the main character. Sure, the movie is called The Lone Ranger. And it is supposed to be about John Reid and his story. But you better believe any time Johnny Depp is on-screen he becomes the center of attention. Armie Hammer is a charismatic actor, who was fantastic in The Social Network. But he really wasn’t given much to work with in his latest role. Although The Lone Ranger is supposed to live by a strict moral code, he is also supposed to be prepared to fight for what is right when necessary. And the Lone Ranger we see in this movie hardly does anything. I understand what they were trying to do, in making him a lawyer and not a fighter. But the creatives took it too far, and made him downright dull. For the majority of the film he refuses to even pick up a gun, which we at least want to see him use to shoot a weapon out of someone’s hands a few times (he does this maybe once). In order to prove their point, they didn’t need to cripple the character.
Johnny Depp was the best part of the film. It is a strange choice for him to play a supporting role in a film, especially a summer blockbuster, but it makes sense once you see him in it. In this version of characters, the Lone Ranger is Tonto’s sidekick. That is at least how it appears for most of the film. Of course at the very end of the film, which is the funnest part of the entire 2 hour and thirty minute film (which is 30 to 45 minutes too long), the Lone Ranger becomes the greatest action hero we have ever seen. This is the hero we wanted to see for the entire film, yet we get a bumbling do-gooder who has no idea what he is doing for the first two hours. I understand we need an origin story for a character who has been out of the mainstream for 50 years, but we really didn’t need to drag it out for 2 hours.
William Fichtner is fantastic as Butch Cavendish. He is one of the most underrated actors right now, and shouldn’t be too far from becoming a household name. With both Elysium and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (where he will play Shredder) coming up in the next year, that shouldn’t be too hard to do. Fichtner plays a great bad guy, one that you love to hate in the film. The only complaint is that we don’t see more of him.
Part of what makes these types of summer blockbusters so fun is that they don’t take themselves too seriously. When it comes to The Lone Ranger, I expect some ridiculous fun. But the problem is that the film never makes up its mind on what it wants to be. The first half to two-thirds takes itself pretty seriously, grounding itself in reality for the most part. So by the end of the film when you get thirty minutes of straight action during a great train scene, it seems completely ridiculous. I wouldn’t mind Tonto falling 100 feet from a speeding train onto another one, full of jagged silver nonetheless, if that was the type of movie I was watching. But it sure wasn’t until the last few scenes.
The Lone Ranger is a great character, and there is no better than the present for a reboot. Unfortunately the way it was executed by Disney has produced a mediocre attempt at best to bring the character back into the spotlight. By giving us a competent hero that could take charge and fight for justice, most audiences could be on board for a sequel. But I’m not convinced those who are first being introduced to the character in this incarnation are going to buy into how truly great he can be.
The Lone Ranger is a C.