Release Date: July 3, 2013
'The Lone Ranger' may lack the fresh appeal of the 'Pirates' films, but it is still a hootin' tootin' good time at the movies.
Review Vital Stats:
Theater: Cinema City Yorba Linda
Time: 10:00 am July 7, 2013
Projector Type: Digital 2D
Film Rating: PG-13
Film Runtime: 2 hr 30 min
Studio: Walt Disney Pictures
Likes: Johnny Depp, Gore Verbinski, Ruth Wilson, William Fichtner
Neutral: The Lone Ranger characters and mythos
Hates: The hypocrisy shown by those who loved PotC but hate this
This isn't the Lone Ranger's first movie: He has been in no less than 6 other feature films
Returning home after 8 long years, district attorney John Reid (Armie Hammer) finds his life turned upside down and his body 6 feet under after being ambushed by the ruthless criminal Butch Cavendish (William Fichtner). Using mystic powers, the wise and endlessly quirky Tonto (Johnny Depp) helps bring John Reid back from certain death as the two men form an unlikely partnership to take down those who have wronged them and help bring balance back to the land.
The immediate thought that originally went through most everyones mind upon first hearing that Hollywood was making a big budget summer blockbuster based on The Lone Ranger elicited a collective head scratch. Then when it was announced that the people responsible for the Pirates of the Caribbean films were making it, there was an audible sigh across the internet. Then when it was announced that Johnny Depp was going to play the Ranger's iconic sidekick Tonto, nearly everyone at the point simply gave up on the entire production before it even started.
Let's be honest here, The Lone Ranger did not need to be adapted into a big screen summer blockbuster movie. Ever since 2003, Disney and every other studio has had their eyes on any way to capitalize on the surprise success of the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise. After countless sequels proved to bring in diminishing returns and that Johnny Depp acting wacky on his own couldn't bring in the crowds, it was time to bring the gang back together for another go at it, and for better or worse The Lone Ranger property was chosen (likely due to director Gore Verbinski's infatuation with westerns) .
The result of that decision is a film that is maybe a little too close in both style and structure to their previous work, a little too long for its own good, a little too unnecessary to justify its existence and perhaps a little too 'western' for most summer movie going audiences to fully embrace. None the less however, whatever baggage you choose to bring with you, there is no denying that Verbinski and crew has successfully captured that magic again. The problem is that the formula just doesn't feel as fresh as it did 10 years ago, even with a fresh coat of face paint.
It almost feels like Disney just wanted something on the cheap to clone themselves another Pirates wanna-be. That's how insignificant the actual Lone Ranger license feels in this large scale western adventure. Unlike other popular properties such as Transformers and G.I. Joe (which have loyal and loud fanbases), Disney picked one that most don't only remember outside the theme song and a handful of taglines.
A lot of discussion has been made about the films over-inflated budget (reports of it being north of $200 million seem about right) and how ludicrous it is to spend that amount of cash on a property as old and inert as the Lone Ranger. First of all, Disney didn't sink that money into the the Lone Ranger name, they sunk it into another possible franchise maker. It may be difficult to think of the Pirates franchise as an insignificant property now, but back then nobody expected much of anything from a movie based on a theme park ride. So why would we expect anything from a similarly stagnant enterprise?
We didn't back then and we didn't this time, but what exactly was the difference that has made The Lone Ranger the target on everyone's hitlist this summer? There are two key components to look at in this regard, the first of which is that we have in fact been down this road before. To say that The Lone Ranger is a spiritual successor to Pirates of the Caribbean is a severe understatement, as both films are identical in nearly every facet possible. Seriously, the two films (we are talking about the first Pirates film here) are the cinematic equivalent of maternal twins.
In Pirates you had Captain Jack Sparrow played by Johnny Depp, a man who lost his ship and his crew due to a mutiny, in which he was left on an island where he in turn went crazy and then seeks revenge on the person responsible. In Lone Ranger you have Tonto played by Johnny Depp, a man who lost his tribe due to a deal he struck that leaves him on his own where he proceeds to go crazy from the guilt he feels and seek revenge on the person responsible. Then you have the fact that both Captain Jack and Tonto are background characters, there to support the main characters, Will (Orlando Bloom) and Elizabeth (Keira Knightley) in Pirates and John and Rebecca (Ruth Wilson) in Lone Ranger.
Both couples from both films are separated by a number of circumstances and obstacles that they must overcome to eventually be together while Johnny Depp acts wacky in the background with only a set number of moments where he must act seriously to remind us that behind all his looney antics, he is in fact a man on a mission. The comparisons continue into absurdity when you look at the actual motivations for characters and even the action scenes.
In Pirates it was cursed gold everyone was after, in Lone Ranger it is cursed silver. In Pirates it was ship to ship battles, in Lone Ranger it is train to train battles. Then you have the tired western cliches to add on top of that, such as the bad man who wants to control the railroad or the damsel in distress being courted by the bad man who she doesn't realize is bad until its too late. This leads into the other obstacle the film needed to overcome, the fact that it is indeed a western.
That may sound silly, but let it be known, no western has ever banked enough cash to be considered a blockbuster. Many have tried (Wild Wild West and Cowboys & Aliens) and all have failed. As long as the filmmakers can keep the budget low and the expectations modest, westerns can turn a profit, but when they start to believe they can use a western to mine some of that summertime gold, all they usually get is fools gold. Anyone at Disney who thought otherwise was just fooling themselves into what will likely become the biggest financial bomb of the year.
Do you want to hear something crazy though? Despite all the negative press, despite it covering all too familiar ground and despite it carrying the western curse, The Lone Ranger is exactly the type of outlandish summertime entertainment that we go to the movies for. If you can put aside your personal biases towards how the filmmakers have changed around the oh-so sacred Lone Ranger mythology, the movie provides all the thrills, humor and rousing action set pieces one would expect from the people who made Pirates of the Caribbean.
The opening scene on the train and the subsequent dual train chase that takes place during the finale show off the same type of crazy but grounded sensibilities that helped the Pirates movies become the swashbuckling high adventure films they were. While it is true that the film meanders a little during its middle section (the character of Red (Helena Bonham Carter) could have been cut completely), there were never any dull moments or anything that could be altered in any way without significantly changing the overall film.
There really is now way to come away from The Lone Ranger without feeling entertained. If you go into this film with negative thoughts towards, then of course you will feel negatively towards it. But if you can find a way to leave all that baggage at home and just accept the film for what it is, you will have a good time with it. Now, as far as a recommendation goes though, that is a little more tough to discern..
While the film certainly fills that big screen well with its many picturesque shots of Monument Valley and over the top action set pieces, the truth of the matter is that this doesn't need to be seen in theaters to fully appreciate it. So unless you are really into westerns, are alright with swapping out ships for trains and want to see Johnny Depp rehashing his Jack Sparrow character again, you are safe to wait for home video on this one. Hi-ho Silver, away!...to the rental store.