Friday, July 05, 2013

the lone ranger review

When "Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl" was released, it was glorious.  It was fun, it was unpredictable, it was different, and kept you wanting more.  And much of the movie's charm and brilliance rested on the character of Captain Jack Sparrow, played so well by Johnny Depp that he secured an Academy Award nomination.

It was this same charm that was unsuccessfully forced in the next two films, "Dead Man's Chest" and "At World's End."  These two movies that simply didn't work for a myriad of reasons, including how long, convoluted and unoriginal they were.  Granted, the last one, "On Stranger Tides", was better than "Chest" and "End", but maybe because it didn't try to follow the same formula as "Black Pearl"... but, it was still the "All Johnny Depp Show" all the time.  As great as he is, you have to have a story that you can follow--and want to follow--in order to have a good movie.

And now we have "The Lone Ranger"... another "Johnny Depp Show" for another 2 and a 1/2 hours.  I think we need to sit down and have a chat with Depp and director Gore Verbinski, if only to tell them that we can have a fun movie made in under 120 minutes.

The movie itself is somewhat of an origin story... you have John Reid, a law abiding straight attorney in the old west who gets embroiled in a big ordeal via the murder of his brother (this is in the trailer, so I am not spoiling anything, I promise)... and along the way, he first arrests, chases, befriends, leaves for dead, saves, is saved by and travels with his legendary Indian partner, Tonto, that being Johnny Depp.

Armie Hammer, who you will most likely remember as playing both of the Winklevii Twins in my 72nd favorite film of all time, "The Social Network", takes on the title character, and is not bad.  I've heard Hammer being described as "not talented" and "not a good actor", but personally, I think he's just fine here.  Supporting characters include Barry Pepper (the young guard in "The Green Mile" and also in "Saving Private Ryan") who has made a great name for himself as a character actor of late... Tom Wilkinson... Ruth Wilson, an Brit who is relatively unknown here... and an excellent turn by William Fichtner--you don't know his name, but you know his face, I promise--as the bad dude, Butch Cavendish.  Even Helena Bonham Carter, no stranger to Depp films, finds her way in a bit part.

In the movie, there is a main storyline of a mine with a bunch of silver, a bunch of people who want that silver, treaties between the White Man and the Savage Indian, Butch and his gang being behind a bunch of it, Reid/The Lone Ranger wanting to bring Butch Cavendish to justice for his crimes (including the murder of his brother), Tonto wanting resolution for his guilt-ridden past, and so on.

First... I like the movie okay enough.  I had very low expectations for this movie, and part of me really didn't even want to see it... but I kinda felt like I had to.  The fact that you probably came to this page to decide for yourself whether to see it or not tells me that you are also having the same thoughts. 

Its overly long, coming in at 2 hours and 17 minutes, and it starts, and ends, with this silly narration involving a boy in a museum.  It keeps cutting back to this, its so unnecessary, and it many times breaks the momentum that many times the film has had to work hard to build. 

John Reid comes off as a nerdy type guy, so straight laced that his idea of justice is to make sure that every bad guy "has a fair trial and will hang for his crimes", an idea that in real life might be fine, but in a movie like this, makes his character look a little impish.  Tonto, on the other hand, is so ridiculous and odd that he kinda makes up the comic relief... Johnny Depp and Armie Hammer have decent enough chemistry, but like the last few Pirate films I referenced, I think "The Lone Ranger" relies soooo much on Depp, it misses opportunities that could have helped the film elsewhere.

Not only that, but the film varies from fun action--the final climax with the train and bridge is lots of fun--to the absolute absurd, like Silver, the famous horse of The Lone Ranger.  Silver is presented to us as this sign from the spirits that John Reid is the "Spirit Walker", and is destined to be great, or some hokum like that... really?  Silver shows up on the roof of a burning barn to save the day, and even in a tree, wearing John Reid's white hat.  I said in the tree.  Not under it.  In it.  Yep.  Get ready for that.

Fichtner's Butch Cavendale is a great villian.  I've seen him be a bad guy before, but not like this... he looks mean, he talks mean and Fichtner chews up, maybe steals, many of the scenes he is in. 

I've never been a huge fan of the old Lone Ranger, but I can probably tell you that this isn't your father's Kemosabe.  Then again, the audience not much younger than me won't know a lot about the original Ranger anyway, only the familiar names like "Tonto" and "Hi Ho Silver!" having heard them passed about in pop culture references.  Depending on your age, and original fandom of these characters, that will determine how you take this new spin on the old legend. 

This may or may not be the beginning of a franchise... I'd say likely not.  A few years ago, Disney released "John Carter", also hoping to build upon that name... it was blasted by critics, audiences stayed away, and at a budget upwards of 250 million, it made about 74m total.  Luckily, "The Avengers" came out a few months later and saved the day.  "The Lone Ranger" has a budget of around 200 million again, was plagued with production troubles and delays, isn't tracking well, and might have the same issues.  Through three days of release, its being trounced already by "Despicable Me 2", and it doesn't look great for the next few weeks.  So we'll see.

For kids?  Well, yes and no.  Yes, in that there is enough humor and some slapstick to keep kids laughing.  Language is at a minimal, and though a whole lot of people get shot and killed, much of it is very cartoony.  There is a scene with a machine gun that mows down a line of oncoming attackers, but none are shown close up and there isn't a lot of blood.  There is a scene were Butch Cavendish cuts out the heart of a good guy, and apparently.... takes a bite?.. but you don't see it, and its only referenced later.   Innuendos are also at a minimum, though there is a scene that takes place at a house of ill repute--again, nothing is shown.

Finally... there is a scene during the credits.  It actually starts a few minutes into the credits, and the credits keep rolling while the scene plays out... but let me tell you, what you see in the first 30 seconds of the scene is all you see.  That's it.  That's all. 

Bottom line... its worth a matinee.  Don't expect to be blown away, when you see the white horse standing on the roof or in a tree, just bear with, and block out the stupid museum kid. 

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