Dec 30, 2013

[Movies] The Lone Ranger (2013)

As much as I'm not into Westerns as a movie genre, I still respect the greater role they play in American cinema. Different strokes for different folks, right? And to be fair, there are some pretty interesting dramas that are set against the whole Wild West background.

But The Lone Ranger seems to have the distinction for being one of the worst movies of the years, if the various reviews are to be believed. Ironically I had no intention of watching this movie until all the reviews came out - the discussions claiming that it was so horrible sort of pushed me to go see it.

Does this movie deserve to be tagged as one of (if not the) worst movies of 2013? As always, the final answer is rather subjective, but I think it's clear that this movie was definitely not one of the best out there. It still had its decent moments (mostly towards the end though) but the rest of it was just...weird. Not necessarily bad - I'm sure it could have worked under different circumstances. It's just that the net result was generally odd for me.


Synopsis: The Lone Ranger is a 2013 Western adventure movie based on the radio drama by the same name created by either George W. Trendle or Fran Striker. This Walt Disney movie was directed by Gore Verbinski with a screenplay by Justin Haythe, Ted Elliott, and Terry Rossio.

The movie begins at a carnival in 1933 where a young boy encounters a Native American Indian who claims to be Tonto (Johnny Depp), the companion of legendary hero and adventurer The Lone Ranger. Tonto proceeds to tell the boy the story of how he got involved with the Ranger given the boy is clearly a fan based on his attire.

Thus the story brings us back further to 1869 in Colby Texas where lawyer John Reid (Armie Hammer) is on a train that just happens to be carrying Tonto prisoner. But the other prisoner is the outlaw Butch Cavendish (William Fichter), who had been captured by John's brother Dan (James Badge Dale), who is a Texas Ranger. Of course Butch's gang mounts a daring train rescue and manage to liberate the outlaw. Dan eventually takes a posse in pursuit of Butch's gang but not before Dan deputizes John as a Texas Ranger. But great tragedy is in store for John in a way that will forever change his life and lead to him becoming the Lone Ranger.

A problem that is typical of such franchise-related stories is the burden of setting the scene and telling the appropriate "origin story" if you will, to borrow the comic book term. And thus the movie makes the weird decision to spend most of it in denial of where it needs to go - in other words, John Reid needs to acknowledge that he is in fact the Lone Ranger. But instead we spend most if it with him poking fun at the domino mask that he is asked to wear or forever questioning Tonto.

The decision to go with Johnny Depp as Tonto was also a strange one. As much as he's a skilled actor on his own, he is also too strongly affiliated with his other characters, particular Captain Jack Sparrow from the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise. This movie does have him trying to be more somber and wise given Tonto's personality, but it thus feels like him trying to rein in his being Jack Sparrow. Thus the performance seems almost lackluster given the need to throttle down a lot of his quirks that have endeared him to fans across prior movies.

As a team, Depp and Hammer aren't a bad pairing, but they're not that particularly amazing either. The writing behind their two characters was decent enough and certainly helped us believe that the two were in fact becoming true partners as the movie progressed. But it wasn't quite enough to make us feel that they'd stick with one another to the bitter end or something like that.

I feel pretty bad for the movie since the last 10 or so minutes seemed pretty good to me. It had a lot of the somewhat campy action that we associate with the Wild West like shootouts and train switching antics. But this was the only part of the movie that capitalized on the energy and passion of the original stories of the franchise. If the writing could have been re-done in a manner to give Hammer more time as the heroic Lone Ranger character, then the movie might have been a more entertaining adventure. Instead we're made to doubt the Ranger and even Tonto at many points in the movie given their characters seem pretty jaded or something.

The Lone Ranger wasn't anything great, which thus made it a bad movie since expectations were running so high. Then again, it's not like the Lone Ranger franchise was in a particularly active point and thus a reboot movie like this wasn't exactly all that relevant to what viewers actually want. And that was the nail in the coffin that leaves this movie with only 1 moment of awkward banter between Depp and Hammer's characters out of a possible 5.


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