I have always had a huge affinity for the pulp serials of the 30’s- oh yeah, they were HARDLY politically correct when it came to matters such as ethnicity, gender roles and the portrayal of human condition, but they were also simple and most importantly, escapist. Considering the time when this media was available, tough times were far and wide across the globe and people craved to escape their hardships by indulging in this medium. “The Phantom”, “Zorro” and “The Lone Ranger” took listeners, viewers and readers on fantastic adventures full of action, derring-do and the assurance that uncomplicated good will always triumph over uncomplicated evil. Naturally, times and attitudes have changed along with the world which we live in, and suffice to say, those golden years of serials had come to a final end. In the 90’s we saw “The Phantom” and “Zorro” return to the big screen (the latter film being far more successful than the former) but audiences did not respond so readily to these dashing masked heroes. This brings us to “The Lone Ranger”, directed by Gore Verbinski.
Verbinski is a fellow who can deliver the thrills and spills when it comes to big, bombastic action and quirky fun and really isn’t too shabby at translating a sense of old school adventure to a new generation of audience. The first “Pirates of the Caribbean” turned out to be a huge hit and I think it’s one of the best period action fantasy films out there today. Bearing this in mind, it made sense that he would helm Ranger and Tonto’s return to the big screen after 32 years and apprehensions aside, quite a few people were looking forward to seeing what he would do with a relic from the past.
Well, let me say now that if you are hearing that this movie is abysmal and horrid, ignore that- for what it is, it’s an entertaining film that endears more than it could repulse. It has the word ‘fun’ in mind from the get-go and it goes out of it’s way to cater to what holiday audiences want- thrills, chills and heaps o’ spills. It goes without saying also that the movie has a nice off-beat yet endearing dynamic between Johnny Depp as Tonto and Armie Hammer as the Lone Ranger himself, John Reid. Both of them play off each other charmingly and most of the best moments in the movie come from their scenes together. I believe Armie Hammer isn’t just a pretty face when it comes to acting as he conveys a sense of earnest Jimmy Stewart-like charm as Reid while also being a bit of a jerk at times, though you can tell he is always trying to do the decent thing. While many will argue that Depp is essentially channelling Captain Jack Sparrow, while that isn’t completely untrue, Tonto is more of a man apart than the drunken fruitcake Sparrow was. The action is big, the wild west cinematography locales are stunning, the set pieces are lavish and it’s something you can watch with a younger or older member of your family and not feel uncomfortable. Now that I have talked about the essential good things, there are quite a few flaws, and sadly, they greatly hinder the film from being a true blue Summer blockbuster popcorn movie.
I appreciate that Verbinski and co. were trying to incorporate as many story elements as they could, but a vast majority of points were jumbled together into a disorganised jamboree, each of them wanting to be over with in order to move on to the next big action set piece. The worst thing about it is that this movie runs for a solid two hours, and you really feel time crawl at that pace despite all of these elements struggling to come into play and you can’t help but shift in your seat and will the movie to go faster. In addition to Hammer and Depp you get yourself a variety of likeable supporting actors such as Tom Wilkinson (that fellow has a part in EVERY movie, I swear), Barry Pepper who I didn’t even recognise either because I wasn’t really noticing or the guy looks completely different compared to where I saw him last.
Then there are the female actors who are sadly under-invested which is a pity because both of them are talented- Ruth Wilson plays Rebecca, John’s sister-in-law and his potential love interest. Wilson always has a compelling presence about her and while her character is not exactly what you would call a damsel, she is mainly there as a motivation for John. Same can be said for Helena Bonham-Carter who I swear is Depp’s Siamese twin because they have appeared in almost every movie together in the last 13 years. It’s always a pleasure to see her, but this sort of familiarity that she has with Depp has become quite grating and it would have been nice if she either a) had more of a role to play rather than show up in three brief sequences or b) played a completely different type of character rather than just the weird-hot shtick she is best known for. Rounding out the cast you get William Fitchner who is always fabulous, but once again, he simply isn’t given enough to do to truly make a lasting impression. None of the performances are awful, they just aren’t memorable enough.
Saying all of this, I couldn’t bring myself to despise this movie like the plague like others, to call it the worst movie ever is wildly inaccurate and perhaps a little unfair- it’s heavily misguided and more than a little disorganised, but it isn’t offensive like other major releases (“Breaking Dawn”, anyone?). If this movie had more focus and more self-regulation, it would have been an undisputed hit with the masses, and it is a shame to see a movie with good intentions not quite reach it’s optimum. This movie for all of it’s flaws tries, and it has a sense of humour about itself and despite the fact it is getting slapped like a red-haired step-child at the box office doesn’t mean you will hate it if you are willing to give it a try.
Review written by Bea Harper
Author’s note: Since Marcey isn’t feeling 100% at present, here is a little something to cheer her up (though feel free to enjoy ladies and dudes who dig dudes)