Despite all the negative reviews of “The Lone Ranger” prior to release, I headed out to the theatre to see why it was so awful.
The film received pretty positive reviews from audiences, scoring a B+ CinemaScore, and I heard from a few that it wasn’t as bad as the media was making it out to be. Maybe it was another one of those films the critics got wrong (see: “Man of Steel” / “The Great Gatsby“).
Sure, the film had a lot going against it.
“The Lone Ranger” was delayed for quite some time. Originally, the Johnny Depp / Armie Hammer flick (you know, the guy who played the Winklevii in “The Social Network”) was set for a December 2012 release. The movie was nearly scrapped at one point and the budget was rumoured to inflate as high as $250 million.
However, Johnny Depp has always been Disney’s saving grace when it comes to big blockbusters. There were four successful “Pirates of the Caribbean” flicks and 2010’s “Alice in Wonderland” grossed more than $1 billion at theatres warranting a sequel.
Sorry Depp. The third franchise attempt is not the charm.
The first two hours of “The Lone Ranger” were a convoluted mess. The film follows John Reid (Hammer) on his adventure to becoming the Western icon along with sidekick Tonto (Depp) while seeking revenge on a dastardly outlaw Butch Cavendish (William Fichtner) for offing his brother.
Unfortunately, the road to get there is winding with too many tangents.
The audience suffers from an overstuffed plot filled with a bandwagon of bad men headed by Cavendish, Hammer playing an overly silly Reid, prostitutes, railroad paving, and an odd, fumbled romance.
Tonto and the Ranger’s white steed serve as comic relief — which sometimes works (when Depp’s conversing with the animal), but other times comes off corny (the horse randomly appears on the branch of a tree wearing a hat.)
There’s a lot thrown in here for little kids, but with a whorehouse, a lot of over-the-top violence that feels out of place in a Disney film — the silhouette of man’s throat being slit, random piranha-like jack rabbits, and a man hanging from a rope — it’s clear the film is trying too hard to appeal to every demographic.
It also didn’t help that the movie felt more like “The Lone Tonto” rather than ranger. The entire plot was focused around Depp and his native American character. Hammer felt more like Depp’s sidekick throughout the film.
To make matters worse, we’d randomly return to an aged Tonto recounting his misadventures with Reid to a young boy dressed in Lone Ranger get up.
In a film where Cavendish appears the ultimate foe, it turns out the trains and railroad shown countless times are the real villain.
After coming to the exhaustive conclusion Americans are using the building of a railroad to San Francisco to obtain silver — a secret long kept hidden by Native Americans — the film departs into an epic runaway train sequence.
Just like that, it felt like we were watching a completely different movie.
The William Tell Overture sounded (a bit cliché, but it works here), and the audience finally sees The Lone Ranger and Tonto we paid to see.
There were no more violent deaths including throat slicing or blasts to the chest.
Instead, it was all slapstick fun paying homage to the black and white television series of the ’50s. Two runaway trains running parallel to each other with Tonto and Cavendish in one and the Ranger riding up alongside them in the other one.
One of the most fun sequences was of Fichtner and Hammer shooting at each other aimlessly from inside two opposite train cars.
A scene of a bank robbery shown for unknown reasons in the first few minutes of the film finally gets resolved in the film’s final minutes, and its a wonder why it was ever introduced at the start.
When the plot finally came together, the film made sense, but it was a wonder why it took a laborious two and a half hours to get there.
There was a good story to be told about American greed and the consequences that come with making a naive, impulsive decision in youth.
Unfortunately, “The Lone Ranger” was so dragged down by unnecessary, weird moments (the killer rabbits, horse humour, and narration from an aged Tonto that the film could have done without) that the point fell short of hitting home.
After an explosive ending (that more or less resembled the opening train scene from “Toy Story 3,”) I wanted to like the Western.
The jarring disconnect of the end of the film nearly made me forget everything else that had transpired. However, you shouldn’t have to endure what feels like a marathon just to receive a bit of satisfaction.
And that’s a shame.
If Disney stuck to the formula delivered in its final half hour where Reid and Tonto were teaming up to get the bad guys, it may not have been such a bust.
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