Johnny Depp as Tonto and Armie Hammer as The Lone Ranger. Click on the 'Play' button above to watch the trailer for The Lone Ranger.
July 2, 2013
(Republished October 28, 2013)
They worked so hard to make a movie out of The Lone Ranger, responding to the pleas of absolutely no one. Calls for a sequel will be even less thunderous. Director Gore Verbinski, producer Jerry Bruckheimer, and star Johnny Depp were just so darned keen to resurrect the long dormant serial hero that Disney ultimately opened their coffers just to keep them happy; like a parent pleasing a child baying for a chocolate at the checkout line. (The studio did make one demand: that the astronomical budget of $250 million be lowered to a much more reasonable, not at all ridiculous $215 million. According to reports, the budget still blew out to $250 mil). Now completed, the project's three primary drivers will hopefully receive a complimentary copy of it to place on their shelf. It's just a little difficult to fathom anyone else really wanting one for themselves. Even Armie Hammer. And he plays The Lone Ranger.
Despite the 196cm Hammer being cast in the titular role, Depp is - for all marketing purposes - the star of the picture, taking on the part of his Native American sidekick Tonto. The entire tale is relayed by an elderly Tonto (wearing perhaps the exact same unconvincing, elderly, sagging-skin suit donned by Hammer in J. Edgar), as he reflects on his unlikely friendship with the towering district attorney seemingly summoned by the Gods to become a masked vigilante in the late 1800s. Hammer is a disarming goofball, and together with Depp they make for an amusing duo. At least, I think they did. Mere days have passed between me seeing it and me writing this review, and I can't really recall any particularly amusing moments. I can't even really remember most of the action sequences. I remember not laughing all that heartily, or being all that thrilled. I remember the film going for two-and-a-half hours. I remember that very well. $250 million spent. Zero memories impressed.
Apparently Ted Elliott and Terry Rossio's original screenplay featured evil werewolves. Re-written by Justin Haythe, the villainous plot now involves a supposedly cannibalistic outlaw (played by William Fichtner) heisting some silver to help his brother (actor's identity withheld; you'll guess immediately while watching) become the primary shareholder of a railroad company. Werewolves and bureaucrats? These were the only two options?
Verbinski and Depp have already crafted better genre throwbacks with the first Pirates of the Caribbean and 2011's wonderfully realised Rango. Their latest effort reeks of dull familiarity, evoking Wild Wild West and Shanghai Noon and Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, as opposed to, well, actually good movies. One scene pays homage to the famous bridge explosion from The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly, though the use of unconvincing CGI feels like an odd way to honour that Sergio Leone classic.
An effort is made to paint Tonto as a tragic figure; cursed to wander the wild west and burdened with guilt over his tribe's slaughter years earlier. It handles the subject with as much sensitivity as the make-up department did Depp's face: Not that much! An entire village of Native Americans is decimated off-screen; an action shrugged off by our villain, and eventually the film itself. The questionable casting of a white man as Tonto, and Tonto's depiction as a bumbling, womanising, dead-bird-feeding crazy person, would incite a more scathing analysis had the flick around it been remarkable in any way. The Lone Ranger offends primarily by being boring.
At least the script isn't as labyrinthine and incomprehensible as the latter Pirates sequels. The set-pieces are, however, as labyrinthine and incomprehensible as the latter Pirates sequels. (Verbinski: overcomplicating action since 2006.) It's nice to see Barry Pepper and James Badge Dale pop up in supporting roles (the Dermot Mulroney and Dylan McDermott of our time), and the curvy-lipped Ruth Wilson is an appealing romantic foil for Hammer, absence of character be damned. But there's nothing really special here. A film should be special if it's going to take 149 of our precious, precious minutes. At least Wild Wild West had the courtesy to wrap it up in under two hours.
The Lone Ranger will be available on Quickflix from October 30, 2013.