Thursday, July 25, 2013

Review: The Lone Ranger (2013)

A few years back I reviewed The Shadow and The Green Hornet (the movies) and if you’re a long time reader of this blog you should recall that I was a big fan of the radio serials those flicks were based on when I was growing up but wasn’t too happy with the movies themselves. It should be of little surprise that The Lone Ranger was another show I listened to a lot. So when I first heard Disney was making a film adaptation you can bet that I was…meh, moderately interested. Look, I would have been super gung-ho about this a few years ago if it weren’t for the huge disappointment I had from Seth Rogen’s attempt at parody in his Green Hornet flick; now I’m just bitter and don’t give a shit.

The Lone Ranger first appeared on the radio in January of 1933 and the series has been adapted into various TV shows, films, comic books and books (some more successful than others). The problem with this film (aside from the ones we’ll be talking about in the review proper) is that Disney has been looking to make a new franchise in the vein as Pirates of the Caribbean this flick is this year’s attempt. Seeing as all their other tries at re-creating the success of that franchise has been met with failure I don’t have high hopes for this one. The Box Office gross for this flick was well below expectations and the critics were all over it, so I would imagine we have another lemon on our hand. Don’t hold your breath for Lone Ranger 2.

Full review after the jump.

"A grown man? Talking to a horse?"
In 1933 a young boy named Will, who is a huge fan of the Lone Ranger, is playing around in  traveling Wild West show. While looking at the Indian attract he meets an old Comanche Native American. The man identifies himself as “Tonto” (Johnny Depp) who was well known to be the partner of the Lone Ranger. Despite the boy’s suspicion of the old man he listens to him tell the adventures of he and his old friend…

Okay. So. I need to point out that this film is indeed a better experience than The Green Hornet was, at least for me. While this film has a ton of issues it wasn’t the hallow comedy bullshit the other film was. I liked Armie Hammer as The Lone Ranger and thought he did a pretty decent job, all things considered. The William Tell Overture, the classic theme of the Lone Ranger, is used to great effect. What saved this movie for me was the third act, specifically the final action sequence on the train. It was a fantastic mix of action packed and over the top; damn near every single thing that happens during this part of the film is awesome. I say this without a hyperbole: this movie would have sucked if it were not for this sequence.

Sissy lawyer? Still better than Seth Rogen's selfish spoiled asshole
The rest of the movie is…I don’t want to say its “bad”. It’s just that it fails at so many things. It zigs when it should zag at pretty much every turn. First of all the narrative device of old Tonto telling the story to some random kid seems really unnecessary. Maybe it was an excuse to have a child be a big part of the film (it's still Disney, after all) without negatively effecting the narrative or maybe it was just more excuses to have Johnny Depp act like a goofball but every time we switch back to 1933 the flow of the story was hurt. Oh I get what they were going for; “how much of this story is true and how much is from the senile mind of this super old guy?” But it just felt like we were wasting time every time we revisited that scene. On a similar note casting Johnny Depp was a mistake. Now this isn’t just about his race but I might as well mention I think it’s ridiculous that here in 2013 we’re still having white actors playing Native American characters. This isn’t the same sort of “white washing” that seems to have been common this summer; this is more like blackface, accept no one seems to mind it. But again that wasn’t my MAJOR issue with Depp as Tonto; it was that Tonto was a joke. The whole role just felt like it was Johnny Depp playing around and being quirky, just like he always seems to do these days especially when Disney is producing things. Seriously, aside from flicks like The Rum Diaries how many films has Depp done in the last few years that are him with an accent with white/pale makeup on? The Lone Ranger doesn’t feel like a story about the title character but instead it feels like the Johnny Depp Show. Kind of like how Pirates of the Caribbean was supposed to be about Will Turner but the spotlight was always on Jack Sparrow, to the point that Will was an afterthought. That doesn’t work here. That Armie Hammer plays supporting character in his own film is pretty damn annoying.

In a better movie I'd care that Helena Bonham Carter plays a hooker
The characters aren’t anything to write home about. There’s nothing offensively bad but also nothing to make you feel invested in them. This makes the story difficult to enjoy as a result. I did find it hilarious that Tom Wilkinson has a role in this film and also in Green Hornet since the two title characters are blood related. The mystical stuff was odd but it didn’t bother me too much since it may or may not be the result of Tonto’s age ravaged brain. Still, Silver the horse in a tree: dumb. The plot wasn’t special but I did find it a bit predictable. But the worst was the humor. I don’t mean to imply that humor has no place in a film and nor am I in anyway trying to say that it was anywhere near as bad as Green Hornet in this regard. But I am saying that it’s hard to take this film seriously with the amount of “funny” and “wacky”. This is almost certainly because Disney was trying to hook the kids, which is a fine idea as certainly the original program was pretty much for children, but they take it far enough that it will lessen the enjoyment of anyone with who likes to do any type of thinking in their movies.

That said there are point where the movie seems too aware of itself, and that also kind of affects the fun. For example the one time The Lone Ranger yells out his classic catchphrase of “Hi Ho Silver, Away” it’s played for laughs and he’s made fun of for it. Seriously, movie, which are you: a wacky, silly adventure starring "White Tonto" for kids or a cynical deconstruction for joyless adults? Make up your mind!

White Tonto and his trusty sidekick Whatshisname
All in all I really wasn’t into this film. It wasn’t particularly smart, there was far too much “wacky fun with Johnny Depp”, and none of the characters are all that interesting. This movie was considered something of a Box Office bomb (though not the worst bomb of the year, I think) and a lot of people are comparing it to last year’s John Carter, another failed Disney film. But unlike John Carter, which I really liked despite its flaws, I totally see why this movie didn’t do well: it’s not good. The last act is still pretty cool though and I left the theater in a good mood so I would say that you may want to give it a chance. But just make sure it’s a rental: I’m not sure it’s worth the full price of a movie ticket.

The Lone Ranger gets a very generous 3 out of 5 Adorable Pandas


- Armie Hammer is pretty good 

-The last act is over the top and fun 


-Weak and predictable plot 

-Superfluous frame narrative 

-Johnny Depp as Tonto is pretty damn annoying 

-Tries too hard to be a sort of wacky kid’s film 

-But also seems to ignore or mock what made the original so much fun

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