“The Lone Ranger” is directed by Gore Verbinski, and stars Johnny Depp, Armie Hammer, William Fichtner, and Helena Bonham Carter.
Disney’s long awaited western rebirth makes its way into theaters this 4th of July weekend. This is another film that has long suffered from development hell. Star Depp has always wanted to play Tonto because of his affinity to Native American history, culture, and minor heritage. His name alone brought the project to the development slate. But, the project was initially shut down due to a monstrous budget. Eventually, Disney settled and brought it back into the mix, at a budget of a whopping 220 million dollars. They brought aboard Gore Verbinski to direct, who helmed their massively successful Pirates of the Caribbean trilogy, (he didn’t direct the 4th entry), in hopes of rekindling magic with frontman Depp. They even struck gold in the animated dept. before, with Rango in 2011. Armie Hammer, mostly known for his portrayal of the Winklevoss twins in Social Network dons the Ranger mask. The problems are this. Westerns aren’t as prevalent or as bankable as they once were. Mix that in with the fact that this is a Disney production, which pretty much limits the violence westerns often shine with, and you have a tough task at hand. Not to mention that this generation has pretty much no idea who the Lone Ranger is, (he’s a radio/television show character that started in the 30’s and lasted through the 60’s), it makes things even harder. The studio was hoping Depp’s name would waive any of that concern and draw in the crowds anyways, like he usually does. It is also ironic, because Hammer’s character is the lead, but the marketing plan was devoted to the megastar Depp, with top billing and all, even though Tonto is the sidekick. Early reviews are scathing, and the signs don’t look good for this project breaking even, but time will tell.
I for one don’t think this movie is as horrible as reviewers are saying. It is mediocre at best, but it is not absolutely dreadful. Another one of its problems is the runtime, coming in at just under 3 hours. That is just too much time for a project like this. Even with the nonstop action scenes throughout, you are worn down watching. The film opens with John Reid, (Hammer) on a train back to his hometown. His ranger brother awaits the same train, which is carrying notorious outlaw Butch Cavendish, and Indian prisoner Tonto. Cavendish is played by Fichtner, with a real low life, scoundrel flair, as a wild west outlaw should be. As the train progresses, an ambush ensues, where Cavendish escapes with his men. This whole sequence is one big action fest, and an entertaining one. It is here where Reid and Tonto first meet, and we learn Tonto is on a path of vengeance against Butch. Eventually, Reid and his ranger brother, played by James Badge Dale, who has a nice presence in his role, head out to pursue Butch. They are ambushed yet again, and all the men are killed, or so it seems. This is one of the moments where the fine line between Disney movie and western don’t mesh well. Butch Cavendish actually cuts out Reid’s brother’s heart and eats it. You read that right. Old camera techniques hide the gore, but you know what is happening. That isn’t the type of stuff that brings in families, which is what this film is geared towards. Anyways, John Reid survives, and Tonto discovers him, bringing him back into the world. This is all of course after Tonto somehow escapes prison, a plothole it seems, with the only reasonable explanation being, “Hey, I’m Tonto, I can do anything.” Reid is then christened by Tonto to wear the famous mask, and become the Lone Ranger.
They set out on a quest to find Butch and bring him to justice. Along the way, we’re catered to lavish sets, obnoxious actions scenes, and fine banter between Depp and Hammer. Tom Wilkinson, who plays Cole, a railroad kingpin, is eventually revealed to be Mr. Bad himself. No surprise. Wilkinson is a fine actor, and here he is nothing special, but he’s there, doing his job. The film ends where we started, on a train, for a ridiculous finale that is one hell of a spectacle. As stated earlier, the film is predicated on action, and Depp’s eccentric trademark. And the action is pretty entertaining. But overall, the film suffers from too long of a length, and the crazy action robbing any story depth, or emotional range or heart from its characters. Hammer delivers a decent leading performance for his first time. It isn’t that he is not capable of carrying a film or blockbuster, but he didn’t have much to work with here. Some were wondering if this movie would launch him to the star stratosphere like Pirates did Depp. I don’t think that will happen here, but we shall see. Hammer himself doesn’t seem too keen of stardom, but when boatloads of money are thrown your way, feelings can be swayed quite easily. Depp’s Tonto bears his always quirky genius, and his character is fun to watch. The rest of the cast outside of Fichtner is just there. Nobody stands out. Overall, it is a decent movie to catch if you have nothing else to do, or are a Depp fan like myself. But Disney was certainly hoping for more than that, and they didn’t get it, especially since they are getting creamed by “Despicable 2,” which came out the same day. The Lone Ranger seems like he may be better off riding into the sunset for good instead of trying to come back for more.
RATING: 2 stars