Jerry Bruckheimer brings on Gore Verbinsky, Johnny Depp, and Disney Pictures to try and reignite the magic of “The Lone Ranger” in a long list of summer blockbuster “remakes”… or reimagining, or just flat out update on familiar material? I don’t know, but I did get a chance to check it out and have a lot to get off my mind regarding this particular film. Firstly, the reviews came in and they were largely negative… to be honest, they were downright horrendous. The high and mighty took every opportunity they could to blast Depp for his Tonto, to mock Verbinsky for attempting to catch lightning in a bottle once more with his Pirates of the Caribbean star, and to smack every aspect of the production that they could. Few probably saw the movie as a fan of the Lone Ranger itself, and fewer still could find the good that was scattered abundantly throughout the film.
I, however, am a fan of the Lone Ranger. Let me be honest… as harsh as my taste in film may be, as violent as my interests may lie, as sick and as disturbed as my mind may occasionally get there is still a part of me that is the same idealistic 6 year old who waved the red, white, and blue and swore allegiance to that same flag with absolute fervor every morning at assembly. As cynical as I’ve become, most of that same cynicism is actually born from the shattered hopes of that little boy who wanted to believe that good would always triumph over evil and that good people far outnumbered the bad. So the tenets of men like the Lone Ranger or Captain America or Spiderman tend to ring true with me to this day… and while many current hero stories are born in the darkness of shattered lives, there are still those who should refuse to become the monsters they profess to fight. The Lone Ranger has always been one of “those guys” for me… I’m one of the few people I know who understands why he uses the silver bullet, who understands the values he represented, and I wanted more than anything to see those values represented on the screen especially in light of the recent rush of “hero” films featuring dark people doing dark deeds and being unapologetic when it came time to do those terrible deeds. And based on the desires of a fan, I’m going to judge this film based on the merits I was looking for…
So the movie decides to start with the Lone Ranger robbing a bank. And yes, I had a fanboy moment of such horrible embarrassment I might as well never hold out hope of ever getting a “cool guy” teeshirt and matching hat when I exclaimed in the middle of a theater “NO!!! THE LONE RANGER WOULD NEVER ROB A BANK!!! WHAT THE FUCK?!?!?!” and got the dagger eyes from my own kid. Yeah, I shit you not. I did that. And I sat with my mouth shut and watched the rest of the movie… and I’m glad that I did.
It’s not perfect, it’s not entirely without flaws, but the Lone Ranger is far better than many have thus far given it credit for being. The Ranger himself was everything he should have been and maybe a little more, and I was actually very impressed with Armie Hammer’s portrayal of the title character. It’s not hard to see how he managed to win the role, with a deep bass voice and athletic build, Hammer also retains a sense of shy uncertainty of a hero about to begin his quest. He’s an idealist placed in a dark situation, and the actions of others do not yank him from his path… even when all hope is lost, when the “good” guys are absolutely outnumbered by the “bad” and revenge seems to be the only answer, the Ranger continues to fight for Justice above all else and continues to place value on even the lives of his enemies. Maybe someone would roll their eyes on such a thing in this day and age, but it made me happy. The aforementioned bank-robbery seemed like just the sort of moment a film-maker looks forward to utilizing to wake up the fanbase and get their blood boiling, and then offering an explanation that does entirely make sense with the character they’d long ago come to love. It’s a slap on the back with a wink, “did you really think we’d screw it up THAT badly?” comment on the side. Okay, I get it.
The movie is fun. There’s no doubt about it… there are some terrific sequences and the chemistry between Hammer and Depp is pretty good, and doesn’t feel so much shoe-horned like some have expected. I don’t feel like I wasted my money and my fan-boy zeal was satisfied so far as it goes.
So where does the film go wrong? We have a long-running series of moments that my son refers to as the “poo-poo” scenes. It is also the big conceit of the movie itself, that all of this is being told from the point of view of a CGI-transformed Johnny Depp as an older Tonto regales a young boy with the story of a hero. We are taken from the 1930’s San Francisco and plunged back another forty or fifty years ( I admit, I didn’t take a note here) to the time of the Ranger and it doesn’t work. It tags about twenty minutes or so onto a film that is already too long by about 15 minutes without these scenes of Hammy Depp acting like a goof for the sake of screen time. And this is kind of indicative to where the film goes wrong in various points… Johnny Depp is the “Hollywood” name, I know… but people would see the film even if they shaved a few moments of Deppy-goof in order to tighten the story itself a bit more. Also… the “twist” about half way through the film isn’t really much of one as things become fairly obvious very early. In fact, Tonto’s back story almost seems comical in and of itself because the stakes are already high enough without adding his personal vendetta to the mix. We like him better before the story takes away some of the glamour of a character we enjoy getting to know.
The film isn’t an absolute MUST SEE… but it’s fun if you have the time and the inclination.
3.5 out of 5.