The Long Ranger – Oh, the Humanity!

Thanks to purchasing Oz the Great and Powerful (Blu-Ray combo pack) for my daughter and granddaughter, I had a FREE ticket for The Lone Ranger.

One-line Review: Depp has lots of fun in The Tonto Show, movie just meh.

The Lone RangerThe Lone Ranger (2013) – Rated PG-13

Native American warrior Tonto recounts the untold tales that transformed John Reid, a man of the law, into a legend of justice.”

The Lone Ranger is such a shame.

My wife’s major complaint with the film is that Johnny Depp essentially plays the entire film in ‘redface’. There would certainly have been outrage if Johnny Depp had played a quirky African-American in blackface but apparently it is still okay for Caucasians to take leading roles as Native Americans away from actual Native Americans. My wife chose not to attend.

Admittedly this is a century old problem for Hollywood. Jeff Chandler (born Ira Gossell) practically made a career out of playing Cochise, assaying the role three times in four years (1950-4). 1962’s Geronimo cast Chuck Connors (aka The Rifleman) in the titular role. A decade later, Charles Bronson went native in Chato’s Land. Sitting Bull has been portrayed by actors as varied as African-American Noble Johnson (1926), J. Carrol Naish (1950, 1954), and Michael Pate (1965). Later films ‘solved’ the racism issue by casting a leading Caucasian as a white man among the Indians (“Little Big Man”, “Dances with Wolves”).

Leaving that aside, there are still more opportunities for outrage. The new movie is clearly an affront to anyone who values the old Clayton Moore series (1949-1957). I doubt anyone even remembers the Klinton Spilsbury outing (1981). In our latest outing, Armie Hammer plays John Reid aka The Lone Ranger as a cross between a gibbering idiot and a total git. Honestly, the film would only have been a half hour long except that every time someone else was going to be a hero, Reid stepped in and bungled everything. This skewering of a pop culture hero can be done as farce (a la The Fiendish Plot of Dr. Fu Manchu) but here it is just a given that Reid is absolutely hopeless (albeit with phenomenal luck).

If you aren’t outraged yet, how about releasing a big budget Disney film during the summer (with all the cachet and family members that brings) and finding out that the villain is not only sadistic but a cannibal as well. Butch Cavendish pulls out and eats the heart of a still living (okay, not for long) heroic sheriff. Some of this is offscreen to preserve the PG-13 rating but they show as much as they can and then you can hear more. If you still missed it, don’t worry they will explain it in detail later.

Still not outraged? The wholesale slaughter of Comanches is perpetrated but it is so insignificant as to be relegated to an almost missed sideplot save for a key dialogue exchange during a standoff. Not being a subtle movie, our dashing cavalryman Fuller is made up to look like George Armstrong Custer. Christianity takes a beating throughout the movie as well.

Okay, I give up. If I can’t outrage you, let me tell you that The Lone Ranger clocks in at an excruciating two hours and twenty-nine minutes. I love epics and some movies need over two hours to develop their plot and/or characters. The Lone Ranger could easily have chopped half an hour, probably an hour without losing much.

Having typed all of that, there is much to like about The Lone Ranger. Johnny Depp’s performance is as wonderfully quirky as ever, though it will remind you of Jack Sparrow from time to time. It is to the film’s credit that it realizes that Depp is the star and the film should be titled Tonto. Helena Bonham Carter is her usual eccentric self but the role is rather a one-trick pony.

Sadly none of the other actors are given much to do. Tom Wilkinson, William Fichtner, and Barry Pepper are all very capable character actors but strangely don’t make much of an impression here. James Badge Dale is suitably scruffy and heroic but isn’t in much of the movie. Armie Hammer comes across as rather bland, when he isn’t being a prig.

There are elements of the unreliable narrator here that are very amusing. The outrageous stunts and setpieces are entertaining. The Lone Ranger borrows a lot from other better films, particularly Little Big Man, so if you haven’t seen the films Lone Ranger references, then you might think it quite imaginative. There is a particularly wonderful dialogue exchange during a standoff.

Mild spoiler ahead:

The climactic setpiece is cleverly set to the tune of the William Tell overture. Of course, because this is an overblown blockbuster, director Verbinski has to have Hans Zimmer add to the classic tune as well as recycle it. The climax just goes on forever.

Oh, and Verbinski, we get it – Indians trade.