The Lone Ranger (2013)

(Video on Demand, December 2013) On paper, it’s clear that The Lone Ranger tries to replicate the surprise success of the Pirates of the Caribbean trilogy: Same star (Johnny Depp), producer (Jerry Bruckheimer) and director (Gore Verbinski), along with two screenwriters (the Elliott/Rossio duo) and the hundred-plus other crew that the movies share.  Once again, we go back in time for thrilling adventures, lavish action sequences, more than two hours’ worth of stuff and an off-kilter supporting character played by Johnny Depp that ends up overshadowing the so-called protagonist.  It’s very familiar, and it’s partly why The Lone Ranger feels like such a slight disappointment.  There is, for one thing, a bit too much of everything: The 149-minutes running time feels more bloated than generous, with numerous side-stories that don’t do anything to further a focused plot.  Even the fantastic action scenes, as detail-oriented as they are conceived, can’t escape a certain lassitude past their halfway mark.  I can’t help but blame Verbinski for a failure to tighten up the film and even up the tone: The Lone Ranger often loses itself momentarily in side-scenes that don’t bring much, indulges in a far grimmer tone than expected (gee… Eating a heart? Genocide twice?) and the framing device isn’t good for much more than a few unreliable-narrator gags.  While Depp does fine as Tonto, his character’s eccentricities seem more studied than fascinating, and by the time his Big Trauma is explained, viewers may be tempted to shrug and motion for the film to move along.  This being said, there is something grand and wonderful about truly-big-budget filmmaking: It seems as if every penny has been spent on-screen, with careful period recreations even in the most fleeting scenes, to say nothing of the extravagant craft with which the action sequences have been put together.  The two train action sequence that bookend the film are worth seeing for anyone who appreciates the kind of big action beats that only hundred of SFX technicians can deliver.  While the film isn’t particularly good, it’s nowhere near a disaster, and it’s sad that Armie Hammer’s career may suffer from the film’s lack of financial success: he’s likable enough in the lead role, and anyone who maintains that this among the year’s worst clearly hasn’t seen enough films yet.  The Lone Ranger has plenty of visual delights, even if it could have benefitted from a few judicious trims at the screenplay level. 

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