t h e l o n e r a n g e r
9th August 2013
14th August 2013
Gore Verbinski is a strange one. Check out his back catalogue if you doubt me. I loved The Mexican, though few saw it. It has one of James Gandolfini’s more interesting performances and is generally just a nice, small film. The Ring remake was decent and for once managed to avoid being utterly redundant (like most English language re-makes). Pirates of the Caribbean - well, we’ll come back to that. The Weatherman was also great, featuring an understated (!!) performance from Nicolas Cage and a superb turn by the young Gemenne de la Pena. Then we’re back to the increasingly bloated Pirates franchise. I loved the first one, thought the second was fine and spent most of the third wondering just how it managed to be 169 minutes long. It seems when he’s doing BIG, Verbinski can’t help himself. When he’s dealing with small, he’s great.
And so we come to The Lone Ranger. A film that’s been so heavily vilified by the critics that even Johnny Depp has come out against the press. Not usually a good sign. And so it goes, this movie is far closer in tone and bloatedness to the later Pirates films than anything else Verbinski has given us.
I’ve never watched the original series of The Lone Ranger and with it hitting the screens in 1949, I’m willing to bet that 90 plus percent of the audience that sits through this incarnation will be in the same boat. Besides the iconic mask, horse and sidekick, this ranger may as well be a totally new creation. The film therefore goes big on origins. We get the origin of the Ranger himself that of his erstwhile horse and his mysterious sidekick.
The movie bizarrely starts off in the 1930’s with a small child entering a fairground attraction that holds a very lifelike diorama of ‘The Nobel Savage’. Yup, it is of course Depp under a ton of prothesis as Tonto. I have no explanation as to why we need this introduction and why we need to bob back and forth between the 1930’s and the 19th century, but bob we do, cutting back occasionally as Depp recounts the whole story to the kid. Maybe we’re supposed to appreciate that the whole tale is from Tonto’s point of view and is therefore not entirely reliable, which to be honest would explain a lot, but i’m less than convinced. Anyway, Tonto takes us back to his first meeting with the then lawyer John Reid. The bad guy that Reid is trying to stop from fleeing his prison cell on a train escapes when his posse bust him loose and subsequent events lead to Reid’s lawman brother pursuing him and dying in the process. Reid is injured in the pursuit and either dies and is resurrected by the horse spirit or just gets shot in both shoulders and recovers. I’m not sure which happens but Tonto discovers him and for reasons never made clear, Reid wakes up on top of a scaffold on top of a very high rocky outcrop.
There is a lot more plot than that but for the sake of mine and your sanity, I won’t go through it all. The Lone Ranger suffers from a number of maladies but the most significant one is that there is simply too much. There’s too much plot, too many strands, too many events, too much origin, it’s mind blowing how much they try to cram into this film. What there is not too much of though is laughs. The film is simply too earnest for its own good. There are occasional flashes of humour and a good few attempts at the surreal but too little of it hits home and i think I chuckled twice in the whole film. Note to Depp’s future employers - it’s not enough any more to have him stare into the camera a go ‘huh’ at the right moment. It was funny, we’ve seen it too much now, it’s lazy.
I’m not blaming the cast for one minute. Depp is fine doing his Depp thing - he kind of floats in and out of the movie, occasionally doing the staring thing, occasionally dispensing wisdom, always being watchable. Armie Hammer fulfills what I’m sure would have been Brendan Fraser’s role if this had been made back in 2000 (honestly, check it out, at times it’s an uncanny resemblance), and if that sounds like a criticism, it’s not, he is perfectly square jawed and upright as the character demands. But William Fichtner is given far too little to do with his bad guy character. Fichtner has done more with less to be fair (his Accountant character is the ONLY reason to watch Drive Angry - shush, you can watch Amber Heard on the internet I'm sure) but I wanted so much more personality from his Butch Cavendish.
And it’s the Fichtner character that shows up another problem the film has - it can’t decide what it wants to be. Butch Cavendish is notorious for eating parts of his victims but this is a PG-13 so the film can’t really follow through with that level of horror. Likewise, we get thrown all kinds of mystic babble but none that the film really wants to follow through on. There’s something about the balance of nature being off, demonstrated by particularly brutal rabbits (I’m not making this up), but it adds up to entirely nothing. Cursed silver is also thrown in, ghostly mines, all kinds of strange occurrences (the white horse inexplicably and unnecessarily appears in a tree at one point), it’s all there, I just don’t know why.
The movie does have some impressive set pieces, particularly its two train events but it’s nothing we haven’t seen before and I was left thinking that all of it would have looked better if the CGI budget had been reigned in a bit. It’s just not memorable enough. I watched it three days ago and I’m really struggling to bring to mind the truly memorable bits.
If the running time had been cut to 90 minutes, the mystic nonsense had been trimmed, the 1930’s bit had been cut altogether, the humour had been made funny and everything else had been toned down 30%, this movie would have been great. I really wanted to be a dissenting voice amongst the wailing but sadly, The Lone Ranger is far too much like the last Pirates film and far too little like the first. I wanted to grab it by both shoulders, shake it vigorously and shout ‘ENOUGH!!’ at the top of my voice. Did I mention it was too long?
Check out the trailer here.