The Lone Ranger
The Lone Ranger 2013
Today I get the chance to both catch up on a movie that I missed this past year, and also cover a movie that was based on a comic book property that’s not exactly a superhero movie, even though it comes pretty close to one. It was the biggest box office bomb of the year, and was critically panned with only a handful of exceptions along with a handful more that thought the movie as a whole was bad, but the climactic sequence at the end was a blast. There seemed to be a lot of controversy surrounding this movie and not all of it had to do with the movie itself. I wanted to be able to look past the backlash and enjoy what could have been Pirates of the Old West, and in a way it kind of was. But it felt much more like it was Pirates of the Old West 5, only they also had to fit in an origin story, and a wraparound story, and flashbacks, and even a brief dream sequence. When it comes down to it, I enjoyed bits and pieces of the movie, loved the ending, but overall it was a bit of a mess.
The movie starts off with one of the things I disliked the most, and that’s the wraparound of old Tonto telling the story to a kid who I coincidentally saw the day before when my daughter happened across the awful Spy Kids 4 where he played one of the new Spy Kids with a hearing aid. It’s meant to feel a bit like Kevin Arnold in the Princess Bride, but it didn’t set the right tone with me, especially when he starts the story in the middle with a bank robbery. In fact, the tone of the movie is something that felt like it was all over the place. There is quite a bit of death in this movie even though there is no blood. At least one time, the deaths are almost played for laughs, while later on in the movie the deaths are meant to be very morose and heavy when there is a massive battle where practically everybody dies. And yet while it is meant to be a big deal, it’s almost immediately forgotten for them to move on to the next action setpiece.
Tonto himself is a big piece of contention. Once again, it’s Johnny Depp playing a goofy character under heavy makeup. I didn’t think that the portrayal was racist, I mean there’s the whole scene with the regular Cherokees where they explain his backstory and how he is essentially traumatized to the point of being nearly insane. Which is yet another case of the wildly divergent tones in this movie. On one hand, Tonto is a goofy Cherokee with crazy antics. On the other hand, he’s doing these weird things because he caused the death of his entire tribe when he was a child. If you take that flashback to heart, it makes the things he does much less funny and much more sad. And yet except for a few moments, it’s immediately back to being played for laughs, and I do have to admit that they did make me laugh once in a while.
One piece of trivia that I read about this movie is that it is the first time that Tonto actually got top billing over the Lone Ranger. And unfortunately, that really carries over into the movie itself. Armie Hammer as the Lone Ranger is too often played for a fool. Most of the movie, he’s just bumbling his way through the movie, stumbling on the overarching plot of the movie either through luck, or through the help of his preternaturally intelligent horse. It also bugged me that most of the audience watching this move above the age of 16 knew that the horse’s name is Silver, but they don’t go into the reveal until the very end with a really weak payoff. I thought the audience, and Silver, deserved better than that. There’s also the weird love story with his brother’s wife-later-widow played by Michelle Monahan. It never made any sense to me why she became tangled up in the whole mess. There’s also the oddness that he’s attracted to someone else’s wife in the first place, and even more so that it’s his brother’s wife. And there’s also a kid who doesn’t really add anything at all to the story either.
Another problem I had with this movie is the convoluted plot. There are all these plot threads going every which way, and everyone seems to be connected to each other. There’s the evil outlaw villain Bruce Cavendish who is a bit of a cannibal, which is an odd choice for a Walt Disney film. He’s got a grudge against the Lone Ranger’s brother, and a past with Tonto. There’s also a bit of a mystery surrounding Cavendish’s earlier partner. There’s the business surrounding the fledgling railroad industry, a secret silver mine, a treaty between the Cherokee and the settlers, and all of these are connected to the main characters in several different ways. There’s also a betrayal early on by one of the other Rangers which has a bit of a weak payoff of little consequence. And there’s also a few scenes with Helena Bonham Carter as a madame with a fake leg made out of ornate ivory. Her character I really never connected with and didn’t think had a good enough reason to be included in the story at all.
I do have to mention what I did like in this movie, and that is near the end as soon as the William Tell overture starts, it brought a big grin to my face that didn’t really go away until the movie was pretty much over. The choreography between the trains, Tonto’s almost Three Stooges-esque antics, it all just worked in all the right ways. It’s just too bad I can’t say that about the two hours that preceded it. There were several more bits here and there that were fairly enjoyable, but they were too often mixed with things that either dragged the movie down, or jarred me into a different tone. It wasn’t awful, but I didn’t really care for it overall. Until next time, this has been Bubbawheat for Flights, Tights, and Movie Nights.