THE LONE RANGER (A Heat-Induced Film Review)

"Mask make you look fat, kemosabe." "Well, that crow makes YOU look like a flock."

“That mask make you look like a fatty, kemosabe.”
“Well, that crow makes YOU look like a flock.”

Here’s the thing about summer blockbusters – they come out in the summer.  You don’t need a masters degree in film to figure that out.  Due to release dates and high concept genres, these movies tend to get judged as mindless entertainment — Avengers, Star Trek Into Darkness, Hangover III, etc.  They arrive with pre-conceived notions.  It’s like profiling.  But there’s another summer-related criteria for judging them and that’s the heat index.  When thermometers reach 85 degrees, it’s time to catch a matinee.  It doesn’t necessarily matter what it is, so long as the air-conditioner works.

I caught a noon screening of The Lone Ranger, the latest Depp/Bruckheimer/Verbinski collaboration, on day 6 of a 100+ degree heat wave in ridiculously sunny Southern California.  Thankfully the running time is a whopping 149 minutes because extreme heat is not my thing.  Anything over 90 degrees is overkill in my book.  Above 95 and I get the point — God hates me.  So my rough draft review written during the movie, as opposed to my final draft written after, may be a tad slanted due to global warming.  Here I present both for you to judge.


The Lone Ranger possesses a been-there-done-that quality that has less to do with it being the umpteenth iteration of the source material and more with the filmography of co-screenwriters Ted Elliott and Terry Rossio.  Ted and Terry (T ‘n’ T in old west lingo) previously penned all 4 of Depp’s Pirates of The Caribbean films, including the good one.  They also wrote The Mask of Zorro, but you don’t need IMDB to tell you that.  It’s evident throughout their latest effort.

Jack Sparrow had a broken compass.  Tonto has a broken pocket watch.  Mask of Zorro’s main villain was a corrupt governor infatuated with the hero’s younger girlfriend.  He was bent on buying out 19th century California with slave-mined gold.  Lone Ranger’s main baddie is a corrupt railroad businessman infatuated with the hero’s younger girl.  He’s determined to control 19th century Texas by purchasing the railroad industry with slave-mined silver.  Each villain has a sadistic sidekick with a proclivity for human body parts — one collects them, the other eats them.  T ‘n’ T’s Ranger script comes off like a greatest hits of their past credits.



This is great!


Hi ho and away!

“Where’s my left arm? What happened to my left arm?!”


The movie is a curious mix of comedy, action, romance, and drama.  For the most part it works, though anything to do with animals – CGI scorpions, beer-guzzling horses, deadly Monty Pythonesque rabbits – feels out of place.  These not-so-subtle tonal shifts are excused by the Unreliable Narrator device, in this case an ancient, forgetful Tonto relaying his and the Ranger’s adventures to a boy.  This device would be more believable if it served a purpose other than covering up logic problems.  For instance, it’s never explained why Depp, in full Little Big Man make-up, is standing inside a carnival display pretending to be a statue.

It feels as if these scenes were shot after principal photography when Disney Studios realized they could A) sweep away plot holes with Tonto’s absent-minded storytelling, and B) get their money’s worth out of superstar Depp.  Armie Hammer may embody the title character but we all know who the main draw is.  Just look at the one-sheet where Tonto nudges kemosabe off-frame.



This is phenomenal!



Johnny Depp is a character actor in a leading man’s body.  One gets the sense that if he’s not playing someone eccentric enough to be cosplayed in the West Hollywood Halloween parade (where I once saw Sweeney Todd and Ed Scissorhands double date Willy Wonka and Mad Hatter), than it’s not worth playing.  Tonto presents another chance for Depp, who is part Native American, to don intricate make-up and lose himself in an accent.  He and the rest of the cast give solid performances, including Helena Bonham Carter who unfortunately is underused.



I can’t believe how @#$%ing good this is!!

"I must still possess the Red Queen's big head because this hat is way too small."

“I must still possess the Red Queen’s big head because this hat is way too small.”


The Lone Ranger has weak points, but it has strong ones as well.  Two spectacular train chases prove how the west was fun.  Director Gore Verbinski’s comic timing shines in his compositions and blocking.  And Tonto’s character arc (Is he savvy?  Or crazy pretending to be savvy?) turns out to be a creative flip of Cap’n Jack’s arc (Is he crazy?  Or savvy pretending to be crazy?).  The film may not have the staying power of Iron Man 3 or even Man of Steel (Man of Steel’s first half anyway), but it is fun.  Fun and forgettable.



This is the best damn air-conditioning I’ve ever experienced!!!

Wait a sec, what’s this?  There’s a movie playing too?!




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