Every now and then a franchise will get dug up from the netherworlds of forgotten franchises, dusted off, and turned into a huge summer Blockbuster. Franchises that were never even that big in the first place, or were big too long ago for it to even try to be relevant. Most of the time, you think to yourself “why on earth did this need to be made?”. Forgotten for a reason, right? Once in a blue moon however, one of those franchises manages to somehow click and become something great. Such as TRON: Legacy, or dare I say Transformers. Gore Verbinski has done just that with The Lone Ranger, a franchise long forgotten turned into one of the summer’s biggest surprises.
This new adaptation of The Lone Ranger has a rocky past, making the film’s success even more surprising. Budget cuts, production delays, fires, an on set death and Hans Zimmer replacing Jack White as the film’s composer, all seemed to doom the film before it even hit the silver screen. It was definitely a film that I was expecting to either hate or be bored to tears with. Instead, I got a film that was a fun, exciting, engaging, and action packed film that may only slightly overstay it’s welcome by just a tad, with it’s 150 minute runtime.
The Long Ranger tells of the origins of the old-timey hero via a young child at a traveling carnival speaking to a very very old Tonto (Johnny Depp), a native american who once was the sidekick of John Reid AKA The Lone Ranger (Armie Hammer). Back in the day John Reid was a simple lawyer, who after a series of bad incidents via famed bad guy with a taste for cannibalism, Butch Cavendish (William Fichtner), becomes known as The Lone Ranger, wearing a mask to conceal his identity from the law. Tonto recruits John Reid to help him get payback against those who helped destroy his fellow Comanche tribes in order to build a railroad.
The on screen chemistry between Tonto and John Reid feels as genuine as it gets. Depp plays the part without making it feel like a racist caricature (something that’s been worried about from the beginning) while Armie Hammer fills Reid with an endless amount of charm and wit. Which, after playing twin douchebags, feels like a welcome change of pace for the actor. Not to mention that William Fichtner oozes creeptastic vibes from his villainous character, with his long greasy hair and extreme cleft lip. Cavendish and his gang all look and feel like live action versions of the evil gang from Lone Ranger director Gore Verbinski’s last film, Rango. Something that I truly enjoyed.
Another note of similarity between The Lone Ranger and Rango being the film’s sense of spirituality and philosophy. While Rango was technically a kid’s movie, under the surface it seemed way more than that, as it was stuffed full of philosophic “half empty or half full” moments. The Long Ranger takes plenty of moments to surround the story with that same sense of philosophy and spirituality. Such as Tonto’s habit of using the old Native American act of trades, leading up to the film’s final scene, one that serves as a moving moment of realization upon the viewer.
Book ending the film are two heavy action sequences involving train robbery and tons of explosions. Despite the intense action that inhabits both of these sequences, the latter of the two being a nearly 30 minute thrill ride, they also serve as one of the film’s biggest flaws. John Reid and Tonto’s inability to get injured. After a certain point in the movie, it becomes a plot point, as The Lone Ranger is supposedly an untouchable “spirit walker”, but before any of this is established, before Reid even becomes The Lone Ranger, Reid and Tonto are involved in a train accident in which the two are thrown from the top of a speeding train, as it plummets off of it’s tracks only to hurtle towards the two, who at this point have somehow managed to not obtain a single scratch from barrel rolling hundreds of feet. As the two characters finally come to a rest, a giant piece of steel comes flying off of the train and conveniently lands within centimeters of them. I get that, yeah, it’s a Disney movie and is geared towards families, but it was a little aggravating seeing these two characters escape this epic train wreck completely unscathed seconds after it’s over. But like I said, it’s a Disney film, and if I’m being realistic, I probably would have thought that scene was incredible as my younger 7 year old self.
As much as I expected to not like The Lone Ranger, I found myself thoroughly enjoying the film. It’s marvelously shot and tremendously enjoyable. Truthfully speaking, it actually comes across as a genuinely better film and a better time spent at the movies than two of this summer’s biggest blockbusters to date, Man of Steel and Iron Man 3.
I give The Lone Ranger a 4 out 5.
By Richard Pepper