Friday, July 05, 2013

Mark at the Movies: The Lone Ranger

Plot: Notorious outlaw Butch Cavendish is being transported to Colby, Texas, for execution. His gang breaks him out of the train after District Attorney John Reid stops the Indian, Tonto, from killing Cavendish for his own reasons. Reid then joins up with his brother, Dan, is deputized as a Texas Ranger, and the posse sets off after Cavendish, only to be ambushed. Miraculously, John Reid survives with the help of Tonto, and the two once again set out after Cavendish, only to learn that the evil they chase goes higher than they can imagine, and John Reid is the lone ranger left to fight that battle. Along the way we also learn Tonto's back story and why he is also after Cavendish. And it's all done in flashback, through a conversation a young lad has with the aged Tonto at a carnival in San Francisco.

Players: This is really Johnny Depp's movie, and he gets top billing here as Tonto. Armie Hammer (and yes, that is his real name) portrays John Reid/Lone Ranger with a fairly complex blend of innocence, goofiness, and righteous wrath. William Fichtner is the main bad guy and known cannibal, Butch Cavendish. Oscar-nominated Tom Wilkinson is Latham Cole, the mayor and chief mover/shaker in the town of Colby. English actress Ruth Wilson plays Dan's wife Rebecca and, we learn, was a one-time flame of John's in their younger years. Helena Bonham Carter is Red Harrington, the local cathouse proprietor with a surprise in her artificial leg. James Badge Dale is the ernest lawman Dan Reid and young Bryant Prince makes his big screen debut as Danny, Rebecca and Dan's son.

Pilot: Gore Verbinski directed this action-comedy movie and he is no stranger to directing Johnny Depp, having helmed all three Pirates of the Caribbean sequels, as well as the animated film, Rango. Here, you get the sense that he was going for the "Pirates" blend of action, whimsy, and danger. He succeeded, but on a somewhat smaller scale.

Performance: Imagine Captain Jack Sparrow as a Comanche Indian, and you'll have a good start at understanding how this film plays out. "Tonto" in Spanish means "fool," and the writers went with that for this reboot, rather than the stalwart, forthright, loyal Tonto played by Jay Silverheels in the television series. The fact that it was told in flashback style was unique, and Verbinski did some clever things with that convention. But when you try to blend such a big mix of summer blockbuster action, humor, pathos, danger, and still try to make it a buddy movie, that's one too many tightropes to walk and sometimes the film falls too deeply into one or the other of those nets. Depp's dimwitted "I'm really a genius" act has grown old for me, but the other actors acquitted themselves just fine; especially Hammer. And by the end of the movie, I was a big fan of the horse.

Point: This is a pretty straight-forward good versus evil movie. It's really a reboot/re-origin story of how the idealistic John Reid turns into the realistic, if you will, Lone Ranger. There is much talk of the "Spirit World" here, and traditional Hollywood Christian stereotypes abound, much to my chagrin. The Christians in the film are portrayed as hypocritical prejudiced bigots and the one genuinely theological prayer is issued from the lips of a villain.

Particulars: The body count is really quite high in this film, but most all of it is bloodless, though the sound effects and reactions of those shot by bullets or arrows are enhanced and awfully realistic. There is one particularly gruesome scene, where Cavendish stabs into a dying man and eats his heart, though it is shown off-camera or in silhouette. In another scene scorpions are seen crawling on the faces of two men trapped in sand. There is a scene in the local house of prostitution where cleavage abounds freely, but not off-puttingly so. I did not find the language particularly objectionable, either.

Raymond's Rating: I give The Lone Ranger two out of four stars. It passed my entertainment test, in that not once did I feel the urge to check my watch, so there is that. But the movie ran two-and-a-half hours, which is closer to three with previews and projection equipment shorts and safety/legal/cell phone reminders and by the time the lights came up, I was definitely ready to leave. The film has no defining climactic moment, you don't really get to see justice delivered to the vilest of the villains, and while the whole thing was nice enough, it left me wanting ... something ... something more. I wish I could say what.


Mark's Musings is published on a periodical basis - right now on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays - but that may change without notice. Find me on Twitter at This blog is considered to be a digital periodical publication and is filed as such with the U.S. Library of Congress; ISSN 2154-9761. Hi-yo, Silver! Away!