Monday, April 21, 2014

The Lone Ranger

Directed by Gore Verbinski.
2013. Rated PG-13, 149 minutes.
Johnny Depp
Armie Hammer
William Fichtner
Tom Wilkinson
Ruth Wilson
James Badge Dale
Helena Bonham Carter
Barry Pepper
JD Cullum
Harry Treadaway
Saginaw Grant

Way back when my age was denoted by a single digit, I made sure to watch three television shows that were made before my birth, but still in syndication. One was "The Adventures of Superman," starring George Reeves. The second was "Batman" with the one and only Adam West in the lead. Finally, to complete the daily triple shot of pre-pubescent testosterone, I watched "The Lone Ranger." I knew that Superman was really the mild-mannered reporter Clark Kent and Batman was millionaire playboy Bruce Wayne. The Lone Ranger was different. That masked man was so mysterious I didn't even know his real name. His secret identity really was just that - a secret! How cool! I guess Tonto knew, but he didn't say much. Besides that, our hero had some other cool things going for himself. He rode that beautiful white horse name Silver and wore a hat that matched her coat. He had a long nosed six-shooter and was so accurate with it he could shoot the gun out of a man's hand from any distance without hitting the hand. Then there was that theme song. Dutta dent, dutta dent, dutta dent dent dent dent - dent dent dent dutta dent....I know, I'm not doing it any justice at all. Maybe this will help...

Fast-forward more years than I care to count and The Lone Ranger graces the screen once more. He made it there once in the 80s, but let's pretend that never happened. This time around, we get Armie Hammer taking over the titular role. Okay, not the first person I think of for the part, but not someone who makes me scratch my head, either. The problems start with his role, though not necessarily with him. What I mean is The Lone Ranger is only the third most important element to this whole production. In reality, this is a film all about the director, Gore Verbinski, and the muse he occasionally borrows from Tim Burton, Johnny Depp.

Depp plays our hero's sidekick Tonto. Sort of. It's really some weird amalgamation of Tonto and all of Depp's other face-painted characters. From the Tonto side of the equation, we get all the broken English we can stand, even if it is fairly irregular. From the other side, he brings his now trademark mugging for the camera and often prancing about the set while playing everything for laughs. It gets close to minstrelsy of a Native American hue. It is pretty much the direct opposite of the way the character was portrayed all those moons ago, in a supposedly less enlightened era. Let's keep it real. He was always a walking stereotype. However, no matter how racism or just plain ignorance was explicit in how he was drawn, Tonto was always honorable and prideful. Depp's version may or may not be a pathological liar, is closer to being a court jester than a hero and is at least a little bit insane. I guess if it makes the kids laugh then mission accomplished, right?

This is where Verbinski comes in. He does here what he does with the Pirates of the Caribbean movies. He introduces a lot of colorful characters we should get to know better, but don't, and places our heroes in one life-or-death situation after another. As per his usual, he does it all in a manner that's so silly it's bound to get a few laughs, but not nearly enough to make up for all the gags that fall flat. Finally, he delivers what should be a simplistic plot in a convoluted manner. This starts with where we first met Tonto. He is and exhibit in a museum in 1933. As if this were Night at the Museum, he comes to life and relays the whole adventure to a young boy. It adds nothing to the movie except run-time and a different style of makeup for Depp to perform in. This defines the word extraneous.

Verbinski does give us some exciting set pieces. Early on, we get an amazing scene featuring a runaway locomotive. Sure, it ends in ridiculous fashion, but it's a sight to behold. The climactic battle at the end is also fun. There are also some standouts among the supporting cast. In fact, there are two. One is a cross-dressing henchmen with the IQ of a buffalo head nickel played by Harry Treadaway. He's good for easy laughs. The other is played by Helena Bonham Carter, also on loan from Tim Burton. Here, she appears to be something out of Robert Rodriguez's fantasies. She comes complete with an artificial leg that doubles as a rifle.

Unfortunately, the positives aren't nearly as weighty as the negatives. The good things amount to a few empty thrills. Those looking for lighthearted action may be pleased. Even they won't have much to grab onto, however. The rest of the movie is basically a bunch of stupid stuff happening. As far as our hero, The Lone Ranger himself, well, he's not all that heroic. He whines and complains a lot. He also winds up following Tonto a lot. Only at the end does he change gears. That seems as much about giving him the obligatory shining moment than about him actually developing into that. In other words, this could probably have been titled Tonto: the Movie or Pirates of the Wild West. A whole bunch is going on, there are a few laughs mixed in with some big action sequences that will entertain some viewers while the rest of us will think it's a mess.

No comments:

Post a Comment