Disney’s The Lone Ranger, a reimagining of the classic hero from radio and television programs, opens in theaters tomorrow. The character debuted in 1933 and is famous for the lines “Hi-Yo, Silver! Away!” and “Ke-mo sah-bee”, as well as its use of the William Tell Overture as theme music. Does this remake, directed by Gore Verbinski and written by Justin Haythe, Ted Elliott, and Terry Rossio, live up to the legend? Find out after the break.
Set in Texas in 1869, Armie Hammer plays John Reid, a lawyer who is on his way to his hometown, which happens to be at the frontier of a new cross country railroad track. When the outlaw Butch Cavendish (William Fichtner) escapes a train on the way to town to be hanged, Reid’s brother Dan deputizes him as a Texas Ranger, and a posse goes out to get the criminal. Unfortunately, they are ambushed, and seemingly all the Rangers have died. However, a spirit horse and the Native American Tonto (Johnny Depp) bring him back to life to avenge his brother’s death and save his sister-in-law and nephew.
This sounds pretty good so far, right? Add to that Cavendish being a ruthless cannibal, a surprise baddie in a public figure, and an interesting back story for Tonto that explains why he is so adamant to help The Lone Ranger. Now we’re cooking.
Unfortunately, quality ingredients are not the only requirements for a delicious dish. The biggest problem with The Lone Ranger is how it is all over the place. The tone shifts from epic action to slapstick comedy to paranormal sci-fi at breakneck speeds. I have no idea who is the intended audience for this film. It is full of silliness, but then you have a guy eating a dying man’s heart, carnivorous rabbits, and mass murders/war.
I’m also not a fan of the main characters. Johnny Depp as Tonto is already an issue since Depp is Caucasian and playing to a stereotype, but he is also not very competent of an aid to the Lone Ranger. His shtick gets old pretty fast, as most of the time he’s just making reactionary bug eyes. The Lone Ranger himself is also not particularly likeable, as he takes most of the movie to fully embrace the persona. The film changes Reid to a peaceful lawman for comedy, and it just slows the film down considerably.
The rest of the characters aren’t much better. Fichtner is solid with what little they give him. There’s only two real female characters, and neither is that impressive. Helena Bonham Carter is charming and spunky as usual with her character Red Harrington, a brothel madam. Unfortunately, her role is inconsequential. A more important role is that of Rebecca Reid, Dan’s wife (Ruth Wilson), but she is regulated to looking uncomfortable and making bad decisions. Suffice to say, this movie does not pass the Bechdel test.
What upsets me the most about the film is how little regard the filmmakers have for the source material. While they actually stayed pretty true to the original story, they treat it almost like a parody. Sure it’s funny sometimes, but it takes you out of the story. While John Reid has great morals, he isn’t much of a hero until the end. In fact, the last third (for the most part) is the only really solid section of the film. The climax involves an impressive train sequence, the classic musical theme, and plenty of heroics from the Lone Ranger and Tonto. Verbinski is a solid director, and it’s obvious that he knows how to shoot action sequences. Unfortunately, it’s too little, too late.
The Lone Ranger has a lot of potential to be a great Western franchise if taken seriously. However, if this bloated, overly expensive parody is all Disney can pull out of the property, it’s better left sitting on the shelf for a while.
P.S. I didn’t even mention how the film is told in flashback by an elderly Tonto, because it’s kind of sad in how terrible it is.