“The Lone Ranger” Movie Review

    Bloated and overlong, but most importantly, subject matter few care about, “The Lone Ranger” is a film Disney likely wishes it was never involved with in the first place.  Carrying a $250 million dollar price tag,  director Gore Verbinski and producer Jerry Bruckheimer (known in every trailer as “The Team That Brought You Pirates of the Caribbean”) attempt to revive a character best known from a long running radio show in the 1930s, 1940s, and 1950s, as well as a popular television show in the 1950s.  Fortunately, I’m at least old enough to say I watched reruns of the television show in the 1980s and thus I have plenty of familiarity with the title character and his Indian sidekick Tonto.  Based on the first weekend box office numbers, I can with certainty say the younger generation, crucial for today’s tentpole feature films success, could care less and wasn’t interested.  The executives at Disney should’ve known this and at minimum would’ve been wise to scale back costs.  The final product doesn’t exactly have the look of an epic production anyway as few westerns do.

     Disney was banking on Johnny Depp’s uncanny ability to play quirky, yet likable characters of whom audiences tend to root for.  This was clearly a bad bet since aside from his Jack Sparrow character, Depp hasn’t exactly been successful with these types of characters lately.  You need only look at the box office performance of “Dark Shadows” last summer (a dismal $76 million domestic gross) to see you need more than Depp in makeup to help a film succeed.  Add in the fact nearly everyone in the world was either aware of or had actually ridden the ride in which “Pirates” is based on, and you realize “The Lone Ranger” had a tremendous uphill climb in recreating a strong enough brand for a summer tentpole.

     In addition, Depp is playing second fiddle to Armie Hammer, an actor who doesn’t have the star power to carry such a picture.  Hammer’s breakthrough as an actor was 2010’s “The Social Network” in which he played the Winklevoss twins.  This led to a supporting role in Clint Eastwood’s “J.Edgar” and the role of the Prince along side Julia Roberts in “Mirror Mirror”.  Not exactly the resume I would bet a quarter of a billion dollars on.  As John Reid, Hammer is fine and in some cases plays the role just as Depp plays his with a sense of vulnerability and an odd ball sense of humor.  Whereas the bad guys in “The Lone Ranger” are down right dirty and dead serious, Hammer and Depp never reach an equal level of intensity and seem to have far more occasional disdain for each other than anyone else in the film.

     The script by Justin Haythe and Ted Elliott keeps the story limited to just a half dozen or so central characters with Reid and Tonto occupying the vast majority of screen time.  The film begins with an unnecessary story telling device in which a young child visits a very old Tonto at an exhibit in a San Francisco carnival in 1933.  I’m perplexed as to why the filmmakers chose to put Depp in old man makeup, rather than just hire an older actor to play the part.  Hints of Johnny Knoxville in his old man suit from “Jackass” immediately crept into my mind, as did the same mistake made in “Prometheus” with Guy Pearce.  This scene means the entire film is told as a flashback to 1869 and it also means we revisit the 1933 scene several times throughout the 149 minute running time.

     Within this flashback retelling, we also get flashbacks further into time where the backstories of Tonto and some of the other characters are told.  Essentially, this is a tale of greed in which a business man, Cole (Tom Wilkinson), uses a ruthless outlaw, Butch Cavendish (William Fichtner) to commit atrocities and blame them on the Indians.  This opens the door for business deals involving the construction of rail road tracks throughout the southwestern United States, regardless of whether or not the land used belongs to the Indians.  The location of a large silver mine also plays an important role in the story, both with Tonto’s childhood, as well as Cole’s motives for building the railroad.

     Reid is sent along with seven other men to hunt down Butch, but they are ambushed and left for dead.  Tonto finds the men and buries them, only to realize Reid is still alive.  He then dubs him the “Spirit Walker” or a man who can’t be killed.  As the story explains, Tonto also seeks revenge against Butch and the two team up in an effort to stop him.  Verbinski’s film suffers greatly from a constant change in emotional pitch.  We go from rousing action to mythical subplots with no rhyme or reason, just an obvious change in tone.  I noticed numerous scenes that felt unnecessary which left me with the feeling the film should’ve been less than 2 hours.

     Disney suffered a similar loss last year with the box office flop “John Carter”.  Like this film, they attempted to push an actor in the lead role, Taylor Kitsch, who wasn’t ready to carry a film on his own.  This isn’t to say “John Carter” was bad.  Actually, it was above average, as is “The Lone Ranger”.  For all its faults, Verbinski delivers an action climax on par with anything else I’ve seen this summer.  It’s also the point where the film abandons Hans Zimmer’s score in favor of the famous “Lone Ranger” theme, Rossini’s “William Tell Overture.”  I have to admit, I smiled when that tune began to play and the rousing action scene on screen seemed to make the first two hours of the film worth sitting through.  No, you likely won’t see a sequel, but perhaps a film like this will introduce a character to the younger generation who otherwise would’ve been forgotten in time. GRADE: C+