Well The Lone Ranger sucked

lone_ranger_posterI’m not surprised. I expected it to be big and dumb loud, and it is big and dumb and loud. (I did expect it to do better business, though.) What did surprise me about The Lone Ranger is that, under all the dross, there was the kernel of a good movie. At the heart of The Lone Ranger, which was the equivalent of watching a child hurl food on the floor in a fancy restaurant, was an R-rated, Tarantino-style revenge flick called Tonto that would have been awesome. Unfortunately, the movie that actually got made was Trains!: How the West Was Fun.

In 2008 there was a script that circulated called Nottingham that told the story of the Sheriff of Nottingham as he investigated a series of murders around Sherwood Forest. In it, Nottingham was a sharp lawman burdened by superstitious and illiterate villagers, an idiotic earl who owned everything around him, and some asshole with a bow who lived in the woods and appeared to be the murderer. It portrayed Nottingham as a beleaguered guy just trying to keep his head—literally, and Robin was a PTSD-riddled mess that couldn’t cope after returning from the Crusades, so he abandoned his lands, leaving them to be usurped by the earl from one county over. In the end, Nottingham and Robin teamed up to solve the murders and reclaim Robin’s land. It was AWESOME, and for a split second it looked like hot shit as Ridley Scott picked it up and Russell Crowe signed on to play Nottingham and Christian Bale as Robin. But it ended up being merely an okay “gritty and realistic” take on Robin Hood, called Robin Hood, and the final product in no way resembled the original Nottingham script.

I think the same thing happened to The Lone Ranger. Somewhere there’s a script called Tonto, and it’s a dark, violent, unflinching take Tontoon a Comanche seeking revenge for his band’s massacre and the ultimate futility of the Indian wars. There are kernels of Tonto visible in The Lone Ranger—which is more than could be said for Nottingham/Robin Hood—and they strike a discordant note in a movie that is otherwise a straight knock off of The Pirates of the CaribbeanThe Lone Ranger could also be called Sand Pirates! But those Tonto bones do show, particularly in the presence of Barry Pepper as a fastidious colonel with flowing blonde locks and a trim beard—shades of Custer—and a bleak, surprisingly graphic scene depicting a Comanche attack that ends in a total massacre. This is a Disney movie, so there’s no blood, but director Gore Verbinksi does not hesitate to show both the initial volley of Indian arrows striking down an unsuspecting cavalry regiment and the ensuing decimation of the Comanche as the cavalry literally outguns them.

Armin-Hammer-and-Johnny-Depp-in-Lone-Ranger-2013-Movie-Image-3-600x450Johnny Depp talked a lot about bringing respect to Tonto and making him a proper character, which is where that carcass of a darker, more blood-fueled movie comes from, but instead of pursuing that project he sold the idea to Disney and made a movie meant to inspire train-themed rides and sell Halloween costumes (which goes against that whole respect thing). The result is a silly mess pockmarked with those darker moments when you see hints of a better, more interesting movie. Because man, The Lone Ranger is boring. It’s a solid forty minutes too long and the occasional glimpse of the could-have-been Tonto aside, it’s too derivative and bloated to function. There are two action sequences set on a train; the first works fairly well but the second relies too much on a magical horse and a complete disregard for the laws of physics to work at all.

THE LONE RANGEROh yeah, Silver is magical. I appreciate that they brought in the symbolism of a white horse—called a “spirit horse” and meant to carry the dead to the Great Beyond—but the “this horse be crazy” bits undid what good they accomplished with Silver’s mystical introduction. Likewise, the totally pointless narrative framework of an aged Tonto recounting the story of the Lone Ranger to a kid during a carnival served no purpose except to a) waste time and b) make Tonto seem sillier than the rest of the movie did. (I think that was supposed to be a nod to Sitting Bull participating in Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show but it didn’t work.) Depp actually does a good job of presenting Tonto as someone haunted by an epic mistake with tragic consequences, and interestingly plays him right on the line between a true mystic and just plain nuts. But that old-man framework is dumb and undercuts everything else.

The-Lone-Ranger-Movie-Wallpaper

That’s basically the problem with The Lone Ranger. Somewhere in there is a good movie but it’s buried under a mountain of stupid. The cinematography is gorgeous, the acting is solid—Armie Hammer acquits himself nicely though he has virtually nothing to work with, and James Badge Dale (Iron Man 3, Flight) gives another scene-stealing performance—but the end result is overlong and illogical. There’s an entire backstory to Hammer’s John Reid that is never accounted for, and too much of the story relies on insane amounts of suspension of disbelief. You don’t have to know anything about film to recognize The Lone Ranger is a mess. It’s impossible to get down with a movie this long and this stupid.

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5 thoughts on “Well The Lone Ranger sucked

  1. ECAM

    I know that I’m being a sickly sweet schadenfreuder, but watching Summer 2013’s “surefire blockbuster hits” tank has been more entertaining than the Olympics. The studio Jabbas must be having heart attacks now that two bankable stars, Smith and Depp, have bombed HARD. I guess Pitt is the only real bankable Movie Star now (even though he doesn’t deserve it with World War Z).

    Lynda Obst has stated that it would be “catastrophic” if four blockbusters went down in the same season. The Lone Ranger is the third strike, following After Earth and White House Down, and as much as I would love to see the studios forced to eat their own man-made diarrhea, it makes me worried for Pacific Rim. The movie isn’t my personal cup of tea, but I want to support it by virtue of being an original and imaginative property, something that is increasingly becoming the winged baby unicorn piglet of Hollywood. I am hoping against hope that Pacific Rim won’t be the sacrificial lamb and fourth strike this summer; honestly, I would have preferred for World War Z to bomb instead.

    What is your opinion? Will the studios actually be forced to reign themselves in with their Monopoly money budgets and begin to cautiously cultivate original ideas, or will they push the “same old same old” approach until the next disaster?

    1. Well, Brad Pitt and RDJ. At this point, RDJ is pretty much the last man standing, though it will be interesting to see if people follow him to non-Marvel titles like The Judge next year. And on the female side, Melissa McCarthy is rising and Sandra Bullock remains bankable, so there are still some legit Movie Stars out there.

      I saw Obst’s comment about four blockbusters tanking the system, but I think it will take more than that. Or rather, it will have to be four catastrophic bombs. Because movies like WWZ, while not proper hits, do earn enough to just eke by. It would take at least four catastrophic failures, *at least*. Paramount is on the most dangerous ground because they don’t currently have a franchise in their stable since the sale of Marvel (but they do siphon a few percentage points off those movies still), and their would-be blockbusters are breaking even at best. But still, that’s not actual failure. White House Down and After Earth and Lone Ranger tanked, sure, but their studios can continue to offset those losses based on money brought in by other properties. I think it would take at minimum four doomsday-level losses at one studio in one year. Someone’s entire blockbuster slate would have to crash and burn for it to make a real difference, and that hasn’t happened yet. There’s always that one movie that manages to make enough to float everything else. Even Paramount had an unexpected windfall from Hansel & Gretel, and they’ve got the cash cow that is Paranormal Activity to absorb losses. But we’re getting close to that threshold. Obst is on the right track and we’re approaching critical mass with how expensive these blockbusters are against how much they make, or don’t make.

      As for Pacific Rim, I’m rooting for it, too. I don’t think it will open big (I’m estimating $40-45 million), but I think it could have legs and end up doing upwards of $150M domestically, and maybe double that internationally ($450-500M cumulative). Finger’s crossed–something original needs a big win.

  2. Wow do I disagree with some of your perspective on this Sarah. I saw The Lone Ranger yesterday, I found it better than my expectations

    Where you saw the old man storyteller as dumb and undercutting, I found it heartbreakingly sad. I saw an old man alone, trying to share his story after everything of his youth, his friends, his family, his world had passed away. In storytelling, does everything need to make sense? In storytelling about a world that has passed into mist, does everything need to be consistent or can it be magical and reconstructed from pieces like memory really is?

    Maybe it just struck that chord because I I saw my rapidly fading grandmother yesterday morning.

    The ‘white man’ came off so badly in this movie. We were shallow, greedy, misled by ego and fear. The scene with the American cavalry and the Comanche was near identical to the American cavalry vs the samurai in the Last Samurai.

    Oh, and the bits with the horse? Yes, exaggerated for story telling effect. But as a long time horse person, I found them incredibly funny because I’ve said and felt such similar things … and found them in places they had no earthly business being. There is not a horseperson (dead or alive) that hasn’t said “There’s something very wrong with that horse” The smarter the horse, the more you say it … and that’s the NON-magical ones.

    1. Well the white man comes off pretty bad in history, so.

      The horse thing, I didn’t mind Silver being clever and capable of tricks. You’re right–smart horses can be pretty amazing. But the death-defying stunts? Dude, even the ten year old sitting next to me couldn’t handle how blatantly fake it was. There’s “this is a special horse” and then there’s “this is all complete baloney that could never ever happen”, and they didn’t take the mystical elements far enough to justify it.

      But I am glad someone liked it.

  3. Yeah, the death defying stuff was beyond implausible. Then again, I have alway loved mythology, including Native American mythology. I didn’t find the approach offensively far afield of that type of story-telling.

    However, I also find beautiful human moments in some VERY bad film like Bulletproof Monk. I can’t claim to be a film conniseur by any means 🙂

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