Classic action duo John Reid and Tonto are once again on the big screen, in a 2013 remake of those old Western film serials and radio broadcasts that were possibly favourites of your grandparents, and, as some of you have most presumably already heard and/or discovered by yourselves, it sucks.
Yeah, this recent rendition of The Lone Ranger by the often talented Gore Verbinski has turned out to be quite the flop and critics have ripped it a new one on several occasions. I figured the other day that now it’s my turn.
The film’s plot is told in flashback by aged Native American Tonto (Johnny Depp), who apparently makes a living as a mannequin at a 1930’s Wild West exhibition (don’t ask), and focuses on his adventures with John Reid (Armie Hammer), a man who would soon be known as the legendary vigilante The Lone Ranger. The two of them first meet during a train raid in 1868; a raid which results in the escape of dreaded cannibal outlaw Butch Cavendish (William Fichtner), who was imprisoned on the train together with Tonto until said raid. After getting Tonto arrested, Reid finds himself promoted to Texas Ranger by his brother Dan (James Badge Dale). Cavendish, however, is still out there doing his Jonah Hex impression so John, Dan and their men ride out into the desert to capture him. It doesn’t exactly go well.
Presumed dead, John dons a mask and instead teams up with Tonto and the rest of the film is basically their adventure to find Cavendish and rescur John’s girlfriend Rebecca (Ruth Wilson). They also run into a railroad tycoon played by Tom Wilkinson and Red Harrington, a brothel played by the always sexy Helena Bonham Carter with gun barrells in her peg-leg and info on Cavendish in her head. There’s more Western weirdness where that came from, trust me. Can’t say it’s as fun or entertaining as, say, Rango.
Even though the film is hated by critics for numerous reasons, its biggest controversy is no doubt the casting of Johnny Depp as a Native American, even though he himself is in fact, uh-oh, a white man. Members of several races were baffled and/or offended by this odd decision.
At first, I reacted to this as I normally do whenever people get upset over something like this: “Oh gasp, really? Johnny Depp isn’t actually a Native American? Oh my God, that’s so awful! Next you’ll be telling me he’s not actually a pirate on the Caribbean sea, a hatter from Wonderland, a human with scissors on his hands OR a schizophrenic fucking lizard that loves theatre! I mean jeez, what does he think he is? An actor?” In some ways I still think just that because he did well as usual, but it feels derivative of his Jack Sparrow routine and I can indeed see why doing it the way Depp does it would offend Native Americans, which truly makes one wonder why exactly Verbinski couldn’t just go with an actual Native American actor? Because his name, whoever it would have been, wouldn’t have looked as good on the poster as “starring Johnny Depp”, I imagine.
Even though I can confess to not hating The Lone Ranger quite as much as I surely thought I would, I can’t really say it’s a very good film. Should you choose to see it, I suspect that you will roll your eyes at many of the jokes (SPOILER: this film as a burping horse and a minstrel in it, folks), find the action too over-the-top to find believably exciting, wonder why the friendship between the two leads feels more like a rivarly most of the time (watch Django Unchained if you want to see a similar chemistry done better), feel dizzy after each disorientingly fast-cut dream sequence and loose interest in a bland story that goes on and on for an unnecessary 140 minutes. Not entirely loathesome, but not something I recommend. Go watch Pacific Rim instead, as I wish I could.
On YouTube, not too long ago, I encountered a collection of comments that informed me that multiple audiences that saw this movie cheered once the classic “Finale” from Gioachino Rossini‘s William Tell Overture, the main theme of orignal 1940’s Lone Ranger series, started playing, and that that should tell me something about how good and effectful the movie is. It does not. It only tells me something about the power of nostalgia with a dash of fanboy-ism.