Before The Lone Ranger started in my theater, a couple of previews played for Disney. One of them was an ad for a video game starring many of the studio’s characters. The commercial featured Jack Sparrow (of Pirates of the Caribbean) meeting and examining Tonto, one of the central characters of The Lone Ranger.
The ad really points out the similarities between the two. Johnny Depp not only plays both characters, but does the exact same routine for Tonto as Sparrow. In The Lone Ranger, the movie adaptation of the famed serial, Tonto, the legendary Native American sidekick to the Texas outlaw, talks funny and constantly bickers with others. Depp’s role as Sparrow worked in the first Pirates movie, but grew tired in the sequels. In The Lone Ranger, Tonto’s wisecracks almost never hit their target. Still, Depp is perhaps one of the stronger things in The Lone Ranger, an overly long picture whose two and a half hour running time seems twice that length.
It’s a shame too. Director Gore Verbinski’s and Johnny Depp’s last collaboration, Rango, was a fun, lively take on the western genre. The Lone Ranger aspires to do that as well, but comes off as a standard action movie, a serious drama, and a buddy picture. The Lone Ranger never accomplishes any of these things and feels remarkably uninspired and rather dull.
For those unfamiliar with the serial (myself included), The Lone Ranger is the story of John Reid (Armie Hammer), a lawyer gone off to Texas to work with his brother Dan (James Badge Dale), a Texas ranger. Things go astray when Dan’s killed by Butch Cavendish (William Fichtner), a cannibalistic criminal whose last name is a few letters away from a copyright infringement. Suspected to be dead, John takes the disguise as a masked ranger and is accompanied by Tonto (Depp), the goofy Native American.
The Lone Ranger pays homage to a due of westerns and there are multiple homages to films like Once Upon A Time In The West and The Searchers. But rather than feeling like a tribute to Sergio Leone or John Ford, The Lone Ranger treads its legs tipping comic wisecracks with Native American genocide. While the film doesn’t have enough gore to merit an R rating, it certainly isn’t suitable for young viewers. There’s plenty of violence in The Lone Ranger enough to give small ones nightmares, including a scene where Butch eats a man’s heart (a la Temple of Doom), not to mention there are references to prostitution and child endangerment. I’m not a parent, but I think this is an inappropriate movie for younger audiences.
But what’s wrong with The Lone Ranger isn’t the content but rather the story. The movie is so dull and predictable that I guessed the major twist about five minutes into the film. It’s nothing audiences haven’t seen before. The action scenes and over-the-top CGI get repetitive after a while, and the middle of the film seems to last for days.
There are some strong moments though. The Lone Ranger’s best scene is the final fight sequence, taking place on two trains to the tune of the William Tell overture. The excitement and rawness of that scene is what the rest of the film is missing. I’m unhappy to report that The Lone Ranger is a bore.