Now Playing: Who Was That Masked Man?

Director Gore Verbinski borrows heavily from his animated Western ‘Rango’ and some other choice films for his latest mega-budget action adventure, ‘The Lone Ranger’. In what seems to be a project greenlit only because Johnny Depp was willing to get into costume and makeup again, this remake is deeply flawed and way too long. Running two-and-a-half hours, the adventure flick could have been loads better with a full hour knocked off its running time.

In addition to its length, ‘The Lone Ranger’ never realizes what type of movie it wants to be. It goes from over-the-top silly comedy to brutal violence all too often. The film stumbles all over the place tonally and never keeps an even pace. I know Verbinski, Depp and producer Jerry Bruckheimer want another ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’ type of franchise that will gross billions of dollars in film after film, but despite moments of thrilling entertainment, this movie may not make enough money to justify sequels.

We’ve all seen or heard in some form about the Lone Ranger, his Indian partner Tonto and his majestic horse Silver. Almost 3,000 radio shows depicted the masked vigilante, plus an eight-year-long TV series and a couple of other movies that came before this $200 million project that’s been scripted by the ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’ writing team.

The film starts out in 1933 San Francisco, where a young boy dressed as a cowboy (complete with eye mask) enters a carnival overlooking the in-progress construction of the Golden Gate Bridge. He immediately goes to the Wild West tent and looks at the stuffed buffalos and giant bears that once ruled the plains. He ends up at a diorama titled “Noble Savage” that depicts a very old Comanche Indian with a dead black bird on his head. Take a closer look, and we see that it’s a very heavily made-up Depp, who for some reason comes alive to talk with the boy about his past. This sets the scene for our story, as we flash back to 1869 where a younger Tonto first meets John Reid.

I’m not sure why Verbinski and his writers decided to tell the story this way, but no reason is ever mentioned or hinted as to why the geriatric Tonto would suddenly come alive and spill his guts to a complete stranger, much less a kid. That aside, we first meet the District Attorney prosecutor John Reid (Armie Hammer) in a train full of churchgoers. In a separate car is the evil outlaw Butch Cavendish (William Fichtner), who Reid is taking into town for justice. Sitting next to Cavendish is Tonto. When Cavendish’s band of outlaws shows up and destroys the train to free their gang boss, Reid and Tonto finally meet.

Now in Colby, Texas, John is reunited with his Texas Ranger brother Dan (James Badge Dale) and his wife Rebeccca (Ruth Wilson). The railroad owner Latham Cole (Tom Wilkinson) has taken a liking to the Reid family. Cole insists that Dan and his team of deputies head out to track down Cavendish and his outlaws and bring them back to town for hanging. Only after an hour into the film, after Cavendish guns down Dan and his men, does John put on the black mask and white hat, meets his horse, and teams up with Tonto to start their adventure.

The next hour is chock full of scenarios seen in the TV series or heard on the radio show, including Tonto’s origin story about being kicked out of his tribe, an evil scheme by Cavendish to steal Silver and build more railways, and a battle between the evil white men and the Indians (which mimics a climactic scene in one of the ‘Lord of the Rings’ movies). This all leads up to the last half hour, which is by far the best part and has the best action sequence in the movie (and is where we finally hear the famous “William Tell Overture”). Unfortunately, by then, we’re worn out and ready to go home.

One thing I liked is that Verbinski spent a big chunk of the budget on building over six miles of actual train track and two actual trains to use while filming, instead of going the CGI route. The results look amazing. We haven’t had a decent train adventure movie in a long time, and ‘Lone Ranger’ remedies that for train enthusiasts.

Depp is great in the role as Tonto, but when isn’t he ever great in anything he does? His performance is at times very dramatic as well as subtly comedic, and we never know what angle he’s coming from. Armie Hammer isn’t quite what I wanted the Lone Ranger to be. I usually love Hammer’s work, but here, while he pulls of the straight-laced professional guy, he doesn’t quite command the hero role so well, and the character gets lost in the other elements of the film. Fichtner pulls off the evil villain very well and is quite disgusting to look at throughout the entire movie. Wilkinson turns in a solid performance, and we get a brilliant cameo by Stephen Root. Of course, this having Johnny Depp in the film, Helena Bonham Carter has to show up playing a prostitute with a shotgun peg leg.

‘The Lone Ranger’ suffers from not knowing what type of movie it ultimately wants to be. You can’t have a brutal battle where thousands of Indians get slaughtered, then cut to a joke about a horse and killer rabbits. It doesn’t work, and it throws the audience out of the dramatic moment. If you love Depp and don’t mind sitting through a two-and-a-half hour movie that jumps around all over the place, go ahead and see this. If not, you might want to wait for video.

On an end note, the kill-count in this Disney film might be larger than all of the Rambo movies combined.

Rating: ★½☆☆☆


  1. Wow, it looks like this is going to be the summer of ZERO really good movies. So far, the only two I’ve mildly enjoyed are MAN OF STEEL and (despite my huge issues with what it did to the franchise) STAR TREK INTO DARKNESS. 2013 isn’t going to be a summer we look back on with fondness (yes, I know PACIFIC RIM is still to come, but frankly it looks horrible to me.).

    • I can’t speak for Shannon, but the trailers for Elysium haven’t done much for me. Too videogame-y.

      I would hope that Guillermo del Toro could bring at least a base level of competence to Pacific Rim, but that’s definitely a “Wait for Blu-ray” movie for me, and I suspect it will be for most other people as well. I expect the movie to bomb and bomb hard.

    • Barsoom Bob

      I have hope for Elysium and am very much looking forward to seeing it. I think all you naysayers are pretty much going to be wrong.

      I think Pacific Rim will be successful and the most SATISFYING, fun, blockbuster movie of the summer.

      Elysium is going to be the INTELLEGENT, sci-fi action movie of the summer. And for all you people who don’t think a little moral lesson about the “haves and the have nots” is not relevent to our modern world, I don’t know what world you are living in.

      And, Gravity will be both an INTELLEGENT and EMOTIONAL, sci fi, drama in the fall.

      We will just have to revisit this in the fall
      to see how it played out.

      • Without disrespect, Bob, but you’ve got to admit that it’s quite funny to misspell “intelligent”. That’s like Homer saying “S-M-R-T” when spelling “smart” 🙂

        (no disrespect!)

  2. Buntcake72

    I agree, I only really enjoyed Man of Steel so far this summer. Films just seem to be really weak lately. I was enjoying Star Trek until KHAAAAN made me groan so loud the audience laughed. Really hoping Pacific Rim delivers, in any other director’s hands I would have no hope but Del Toro knows how to weave a good story into all the spectacle. As for Elysium, looks interesting if the thing wasn’t such a propaganda piece for Occupy Retard Street. Enough of the overtly political BS Hollywood!

    • RollTide1017

      I agree with your Elysium comment. The political tones in the trailer have turned me off, I’ll pass.

      • Ted S.

        Having read the script of Elysium, I can tell you the political tone wasn’t as obvious as in District 9, yes it showed the poor living in the slum of earth and the super rich living in the clean heaven of Elysium. But the story was just a straight up action/adventure with one dimensional villain. And from the trailer I’ve seen, the film version stays quite true the script I read. Damon’s character was pretty selfish and I think audiences might hate his guts until he became the savior.

  3. It’s sad that the only enemy of this movie is truly Disney itself. I wouldn’t be too surprised at all if the kid was a last minute addition to make it a “family” film. Disney seem to be molesting pretty much everything they touch, like Iron Man, WTF was with the kid???

    The movies tone would have been much better if executives hands weren’t going where they shouldn’t be allowed and was the film was able to travel down the vein of Pirates 2 and 3, dark and broody but doesn’t take itself too seriously which don’t distract from the films overall tone.

    Still I thoroughly enjoyed it none the less.

  4. Looks like I’m going to enjoy this a lot when I get to see it. I’m a big fan of all 4 Pirates movies and a great epic like this doesnt deserve less than two and a half hours anymore, anything shorter with big budget summer flicks isnt enough for me 🙂

  5. Saw ‘The Lone Ranger’ yesterday. Had never heard any radio show or seen any tv serial, so I knew nothing at all about the character or the franchise.

    I liked it very much. Great stuff!

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