On paper, The Lone Ranger sounds like a sure thing. For all intents and purposes the character is a Wild West Batman (who’s not Zorro), a masked hero fighting for justice outside a compromised legal system. Although older generations will remember the character more fondly than younger audiences, the Lone Ranger is an American Pop Culture icon. And he’s being brought back to the screen by the same team responsible for ultra-successful Pirates of the Caribbean series: Walt Disney Pictures, producer Jerry Bruckheimer, director Gore Verbinski and leading man Johnny Depp. A guaranteed hit rollicking family adventure, right?
Although the film is far from awful, The Long Ranger is hamstrung by the fact it can’t decide what it wants to be. Watching this two-and-a-half hour effort, you get the sense that two Lone Ranger films were shot – a goofy, far-fetched family flick and a grim, gritty, period-set actioner – and afterwards the movie-makers got very, very drunk before editing the two together.
So while you get inebriated horses in trees, a brothel madam (a fun if underutilised Helena Bonham Carter) with a shotgun hidden in her prosthetic leg and Johnny Depp delivering a performance that is essentially Jack Sparrow: Injun, you also have dead horses, scalpings, heart eating, Native American genocide and repeated threats of rape, including once with a chicken foot. Seriously.
Bouncing between the two very different tones, often scene to scene, The Lone Ranger just cannot sustain a sense of fun. Again, I repeat that the film is neither Jonah Hex awful nor Wild Wild West batshit insane – even if it has its moments of the latter. There are definite pluses about The Lone Ranger. These include William Fichtner’s incredibly menacing bandit villain, the film’s realistically rough production design and very impactful sound editing. The audience feels every single gunshot; even more so than in Django Unchained earlier this year.
Certain scenes work really well in The Lone Ranger – a desert ambush, a visit to a brothel that’s a saucier riff on the Tortuga sequences from Pirates of the Caribbean, and any of the minutely choreographed action sequences involving trains. It’s a pity though that the high-spirited payoff, complete with signature Lone Ranger theme (the William Tell Overture), happens well after the two-hour mark. You see, this is the point viewers really start to take strain, having been able to telegraph the film’s plot from the opening credits. Two hours in, you just wish the movie-makers would get on with things.
Also there’s only so much whiny resistance to heroics you can take from the title character, a goody two-shoes pacifist played by Armie Hammer. Depp layers on the straight-faced weirdness meanwhile, which you will either enjoy or find forced, considering how often we’ve seen this kind of thing from him over the past decade.
Ultimately my impression on leaving the cinema was that The Lone Ranger makes for okay viewing. It has its sparks of inspiration, but is definitely too long. It’s best to save it for a half-price movie night or you’re likely to feel cheated. This said, at least it’s NOT in 3D. Hallelujah for that!
Last Updated: July 18, 2013