The Lone Ranger probably works as “shut your brain off” entertainment if you believe in such a thing. I do believe that it is successful as “distract your brain” entertainment. There’s a lot to enjoy in the movie: action, comedy, drama, good performances. Leaving the theater, however, the fact settles in that the structure of the movie is kind of a wreck. It’s hard to even say it’s a “good movie,” but it nevertheless entertains through the strength of its good elements.Depp creates a great spin on Tonto, both sharp comic foil and hero in his own right.Arnie Hammer’s likeable as the Ranger, a student of the law with an admirable if naive sense of justice… and the way everyone mocks his insistence on due process brings up uncomfortable implications if given a bit of thought. Johnny Depp creates a great spin on Tonto, both sharp comic foil and hero in his own right, while being at the center of a framing device which doesn’t really serve any clear purpose. Then there’s the question of whether an actor with only a little bit of Native American ancestry and even less experience living in Native American culture should be cast for the role in the first place, but we won’t delve into that here. Silver the horse is the best animal actor since Uggie in The Artist… and is one of the only animals which isn’t a very fake CGI creation, among which include cannibal rabbits which serve no purpose except to cause Monty Python flashbacks. Helena Bonham Carter plays a sexy prostitute with a gun for a leg, although doesn’t contribute anything of substance to the plot (none of the female characters really do, for that matter).
The movie does treat the Comanche with respect and cleverly addresses the more stereotypical aspects of the Tonto character, but it still fails at cultural accuracy by throwing the wendigo myth of Northeastern tribes into the Southwest. The comic banter is enjoyable, except when it bombs through tonal miscalculation. And I think you get the pattern here: lots of good stuff but a lot of qualifiers.
The action scenes don’t actually need any qualifiers, except maybe a disclaimer for parents who might not expect a Disney movie to reach Temple of Doom levels of violence. The feats of stuntwork and special effects, both practical and digital, are as skillfully shot and choreographed as those in director Gore Verbinski’s previous Pirates of the Caribbean films. The train chase at the movie’s climax is particularly rousing, making great use of the William Tell Overture from the old Lone Ranger TV series. It did make me want to rewatch Buster Keaton’s The General, an obvious inspiration and an even more outstanding piece of action filmmaking given all of Keaton’s stunts were real, but a good movie sequence bringing back memories of an even better one is hardly a problem.Mostly what this movie needs is a better editing job.Mostly what this movie needs is a better editing job. That seems to be a need for this crew, as the Pirates sequels became similarly bloated. One only imagines what the early scripts, which included werewolves on top of all the existing bloat, must have been like. I do wonder why so many blockbusters these days are so lengthy when a shorter runtime would often make for stronger storytelling and get more showtimes in for bigger box office; I love Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter as much as anyone, but not all stories need as much time to be told. Verbinski expressed his love of the Western and his surreal humor tendencies better in the significantly shorter Rango. Throwing so much into The Lone Ranger means a lot of it doesn’t really work. Good thing there’s enough to distract you from that while you’re watching.
The Lone Ranger opens nationwide today, July 3rd.
All images – Ph: Peter Mountain ©Disney Enterprises, Inc. and Jerry Bruckheimer Inc. All Rights Reserved.