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“The Lone Ranger”: Who Was This Movie For?

by on July 22, 2013

When Johnny Depp signed on to make the $250 million dollar behemoth The Lone Ranger, he decided he wanted to play Tonto in order to restore him to the forefront of the “Tonto and the Lone Ranger” mythos.

After the movie flopped in its first weekend—making back $40 million of what was reportedly a $250 million budget—it became clear that The Lone Ranger was going to be a disaster for Walt Disney Studios and Jerry Bruckheimer Films.

This magical “spirit horse” may have been looking deep into Johnny Depp’s eyes wondering what in the world the purpose of this movie was. Armie Hammer looked on from the background in confusion.

What Depp failed to take into account was that The Lone Ranger—marketed to be a fun-filled action movie for the whole family like director Gore Verbinski’s previous Pirates of the Caribbean films—was a story that most people under the age of 30, including myself, are not familiar with in even the vaguest sense. My only experience with it was a Sherman Alexie collection of short stories that I read in high school.*

*Even that book was published in 1993.

Combine this lack of a nostalgia factor* with the movie being 149 minutes long and not being very good, and you have a huge flop on your hands.

*People I have talked to who are familiar with the original story say that “The Lone Ranger” is nothing like what it used to be.

Now, this wasn’t a really bad movie. Sure, it has no sense of purpose, direction or self-awareness, but it’s not the worst movie I’ve ever seen. The problem is there isn’t anything remotely interesting or memorable about it.

In most movies, you can pick out scenes or actors or dialogue or shots that you enjoyed. In this movie, there wasn’t anything like that for me. The dialogue was generic*, the story line was not very interesting, the acting was below average, and the action scenes (of which there were many) weren’t all that interesting for a so-called action movie.

*At times, it felt like the talking scenes merely functioned as shoddy bridges so director Gore Verbinski and screenwriters Justin Haythe, Ted Elliott and Terry Rossio could just get back to the action (trains, mines and horses, oh my!).

The one insufferable thing that I really hated during the movie was the flashbacks (flash-forwards, I guess) to Old Tonto telling the little boy his story. Every time the story sputtered around and tried to get started, we were yanked back into the Noble Savage’s exhibit in 1933 San Francisco. It was unbearable. Couldn’t they have just told the story without that? How did Tonto end up in an exhibit in a fair? Does that not undermine the entire message the movie is trying to send?

As for the actors, I’d prefer not to get into Depp’s makeup-caked portrayal of Tonto/Native Americans, but I get the feeling that if I were a Native American, I would be offended by several of the things he did during the movie.*

*Not the least of which is a white Johnny Depp snorting about the “stupid white man” whenever faced with a character’s insatiable greed.

Armie Hammer didn’t give off a strong impression to me, other than that he is really good at standing around handsomely and making goofy, angry faces when Tonto spews his ridiculous ideas.

William Fichtner was creepy enough but a fairly generic villain, and Helena Bonham Carter’s character felt forced into the script, slightly unnecessary, and unjustifiably obsessed over by everyone who came into contact with her wooden gun leg.

I’m not really sure what the point of this movie was or who it was even for. And based on its Manu Ginobli-sized flop in the box office, it looks like Verbinski may not get a chance to see this franchise pan out quite like Pirates did.

1/5 stars

What did everybody else think?

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