The Lone Ranger is another pop culture icon that, although perhaps past his prime, is still recognizable by his trademarks, in this a case a white hat, a white horse, his mask, and his cry of “Hi-ho Silver!” And that’s all he’s ever really needed, existing as a sign for good against the bandits and bad guys out there in the Old West. Unfortunately, this time around the filmmakers thought they needed to keep up with the Joneses. They thought he couldn’t be just an old fashioned hero in the gun-slinging frontier; they thought he needed a gritty backstory and moral conflict. The problem is that when you try to create a gritty story against the backdrop of Hollywood’s rootin’ tootin’ version of the Wild West, everything just seems confused, and a bit dull by comparison.
Coming from the team that brought us Pirates of the Caribbean, The Lone Ranger looked like a trip back to the roller coaster style fun of the first Pirates movie. Sure it may have technically been a period piece, but it was really only about one thing — fun. We have heroes, villains, damsels in distress, and a setup for all the action set pieces you could hope for. The Lone Ranger just forgot that element of fun that ties it all together. If you look too closely at a movie about a Native American caricature and a cowboy in a mask, you’ll realize just how silly it is. We need it to be covered up with a healthy dose of comedy and imagination, without the burden of reason or physics. Not every story is meant to be a character study; sometimes we just want to see the good guys beat the bad guys.
Of course, it’s no sin to try and add some depth to a character, even if it may be a bit more than the character needs. Unfortunately, The Lone Ranger went about this search for meaning in all the wrong ways. Films will often attempt to show how “grown up” they are by using excessive profanity and sexuality, both of which were notably absent from this movie. However, whatever lacked in dirty language and suggestive relations was more than made up for with violence and gore. It’s funny, people in old Westerns got shot left and right, but it was always kept at a safe distance. There wasn’t realism and blood and guts, it was just another bad guy getting taken out of the picture. In a film that should’ve been a fun ride, it was like we got stuck on the car with the kid who kept getting sick, sucking out all of the fun and bringing us back to the reality we were trying to escape.
Despite all of the controversy of his casting as the Native American sidekick Tonto, Johnny Depp was the one bright spot of The Lone Ranger. He was silly, over the top, and constantly defied logic — seeming to be the only one who realized that’s exactly what we wanted from this film. Of course they had to give him a troubled background to try and explain his torment and motivations, but thankfully the filmmakers seemed to forget this as soon as they explained it, save for a few essentially meaningless callbacks. Sure Depp may have essentially just taken his Jack Sparrow character and changed costumes and voices, but it was still one of the only sparks of life to be found in this procedure.
The Lone Ranger wasn’t so much a misfire as it was a misunderstanding. While we were looking for a bit of fun, the filmmakers thought we wanted a challenge. And while the final action sequence finally seemed to capture the spirit we had been hoping for, it was simply too little, too late. Sometimes we just want our hero on his trusty steed to ride in and save the day, without all of the details weighing things down.
My Rating: 2 Stars