I wanted to enjoy Disney’s The Lone Ranger, I really did. After all, Armie Hammer is one of my favorite up-and-coming actors, and Johnny Depp is always fun to watch in movies (though I am getting a little sick of him playing eccentric characters in almost every film over the past three years.). Unfortunately, not Hammer, Depp, or even my girl Helena Bonham Carter could save this reboot from becoming a cheap (Western) knockoff of Pirates of the Caribbean.
Directed by Gore Verbinski (Rango), The Lone Ranger flounders when it comes to bringing the Lone Ranger (and friends) to life, not to mention the 2 ½ hour runtime made the film overlong and painful. Plot “twists” were extremely predictable, jokes didn’t land, and the acting was really over-the-top; not the formula for a fun, entertaining movie. It seems Disney and the filmmakers were more concerned with using The Lone Ranger to bide time until the next Pirates’ film sails into theaters (while also hoping Depp and his bird could distract audiences from realizing what a terrible film it is). The only real positives of the movie were its fantastic stunt scenes and the horse that played Silver, probably the best actor in the film (that’s less an insult to the human actors, and more a nod to the fantastic training of that horse!).
The story begins in San Francisco in 1933, the same year the story of the Lone Ranger hit American radio and the Golden Gate Bridge started construction (as you will see in the background). An elderly Tonto (Johnny Depp), who is now a member of a quirky sideshow, strikes up a conversation with a visiting boy who is dressed like a cowboy. Seeing the boy’s interest in the Wild West, Tonto begins to tell him a story about his earlier days traveling alongside the Lone Ranger himself, John Reid (Armie Hammer). Through Tonto’s story, we quickly learn that the two unlikely companions teamed up after they found they had the same enemy, Butch Cavendish (William Fichtner), a ruthless outlaw that killed Reid’s brother and Tonto’s entire village.
Like in pretty much every movie (including last week’s hit comedy The Heat), at first the partners don’t get along. Reid is a man of the law, who hates guns and mentions justice one too many times. Tonto, on the other hand, has never been treated “justly”, so he isn’t keen on trusting the American legal system. After all, the first time we meet Tonto, he is shackled in a train car just because he is a Native American. Of course, after many fights and arguments, the two men realize that in order to get the bad guy, they need to work as a team.
It’s strange that a in a film called The Lone Ranger, the actual Lone Ranger was relegated to a more supporting role. The real emotion/action of the film rested with Depp’s Tonto. The audience is only shown the tragic back-story of Tonto and not John Reid. This seems an odd choice since Reid is supposedly from the town at the center of the action and has a history with a few of its occupants, mainly a childhood romance with his brother’s widow Rebecca (Ruth Wilson). Believe me, I am not advocating for a longer film explaining the background of Reid, but I think many scenes could be edited out in order to add room for more context about the character’s motivations. Not to mention, more attention should have been paid to building the romantic history/chemistry between Reid and Rebecca. We’re supposed to believe they are childhood sweethearts, but by the end of the film, I could care less whether the two were a couple or not.
In terms of casting, it must first be said that a huge misstep in the film is its underuse of Helena Bonham Carter. Carter is fantastic in every role she’s in and always commands attention on the big screen. In this film, however, her character only shows up onscreen for about five minutes; her role was certainly not meaty enough to require her presence. What is Disney thinking wasting Helena’s talent? Nobody, except apparently Disney, puts Helena in the corner (or in this case, maybe the cutting room floor)!
Another flaw in casting was Armie Hammer in the titular role. Physically, Hammer makes a fantastic Lone Ranger. He is tall, handsome, and can really wear a badge and cowboy hat. Oh, and did I mention he is usually a fantastic actor? In this film, however, his performance was overacting at its worst. It seemed he was trying so hard to be funny, he left his acting talent at the door. Johnny Depp, on the other hand, was good in the role of Tonto, though Tonto is by no means comparable to the ever hilarious and entertaining Captain Jack Sparrow. While I am sick of him playing weird characters, his performance (along with Silver the horse) was the only semi-entertaining part of the film.
Kemosabe, do yourself a favor this July 4 week/weekend and skip seeing The Lone Ranger in theaters. You will not only save money, but you will also save yourself from wasting 2 ½ hours on a lousy movie that is thankfully not in 3D. However, if you are desperate to get out of the ruthless July heat, check out World War Z, Man of Steel, or the aptly named comedy The Heat instead.
My Review: D+/C-