I think it is safe to say that the well of rebootable properties is starting to get dry, especially when we’ve hit 1930s radio serials. The Lone Ranger could have been a really interesting film to make in the present day. By presenting it as an examination of modern-day heroism and issues but through the lens of a Post-Civil War America, it could have been a very eloquent and smart film, and even relevant to a modern audiences’ interests, but if there is one thing this movie prides itself on is its stupidity. I don’t mean to imply that the entirety of The Lone Ranger is worthless, some of it is actually quite entertaining as far as dopey blockbusters go, but as a complete feature film it fails on many fronts.
Armie Hammer jumps into the role of John Reid and makes him one of the least memorable and boring hero figures that has appeared on the big screen in ages. In addition, he leads a cast of totally unremarkable and less than memorable characters. From Helena Bonham Carter’s Red, who is utterly useless, to William Fichtner’s caricature of “bad guys” in Butch Cavendish, the majority of the cast of The Lone Ranger is largely pandering towards parodies of their archetypes and it begins to wear thin as you trudge through the film’s two-and-a-half hour runtime.
When the film was still in production there were rumors that Johnny Depp’s Tonto was more of a featured character than the actual Lone Ranger, to the point that it could be said he was the main character of the movie. This is almost true. The focus of the film is clearly Armie Hammer, but Depp is the vessel that the filmmakers have chosen to give the audience a direct route into the movie and its world with some success. For the most part, Depp works in the role. Many will likely roll their eyes at what is essentially Captain Jack Sparrow as a Native American, but his goofy jokes and screen presence worked for me, to the point that they were all that worked for me in the film.
Director Gore Verbinski’s style lends itself to some interesting set pieces and creative camerawork. While the content of the movie is pretty boring and routine, the film’s stark look is one of its more interesting factors. That in mind, it only highlights how manufactured the script for the film feels. Writers Justin Haythe, Ted Elliott & Terry Rossio chose to stick to the tropes of the western genre for the majority of the film. Not in the “subvert and comment on them” way either, just the “well this is what happens in Westerns” way. This is a remarkable brand of laziness as far as scripting goes, but when you remember that this movie cost a quarter of a billion dollars, the reason for its banality is quite clear.
The Lone Ranger is not a good movie. It would rather stick to the old ideas of a western and a heroic cowboy figure than reinvent them and make itself unique. Most of the cast members provide very few moments of entertainment – Johnny Depp brings his usual brand of charisma and goofiness to the film that at least makes the rest of it bearable. There’s not much here that stands out in the landscape of the films of 2013, and it will likely go on to be a mostly forgotten venture. While there is not much to be said about film’s attempts at uniqueness, the framing device for its story being the best one, the film thinks it is far more clever and interesting than it really is. In the world of bad big budget westerns however, it’s not the worst.