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The Lone Ranger

The Lone Ranger

What were they thinking? I kept asking myself that question as
I plodded through the boring first hour of this elaborate but elephantine
Western. Why bother making a film called The
Lone Ranger
if your intention is to turn the famous hero into a doofus and his
noble Indian friend into a wisecracking Greek chorus?

Let’s say, for the sake of argument, that producer Jerry
Bruckheimer and director Gore Verbinski simply wanted to transplant the
crowd-pleasing ingredients of Pirates of
the Caribbean
into a Western setting. Fair enough, as a commercial
proposition…but you still ought to provide the audience with someone to root
for, and this lumbering screenplay (by the Pirates
guys, Ted Elliott and Terry Rossio, and Justin Haythe) offers nothing but
lamebrains (like Armie Hammer’s Lone Ranger, who’s clueless) and a variety of villains,
from scummy Butch Cavendish (William Fichtner) and his gang to a ruthless
railroad baron to the U.S. Cavalry itself.

Even Tonto (Johnny Depp), who is half-crazed, for reasons
explained well into the storyline, isn’t what you’d call heroic. He saves the
Ranger’s life, but he’s played mostly for laughs, like Jack Sparrow. Except
he’s not all that funny.

Helena Bonham Carter turns up, briefly and inexplicably, as
a dance-hall madam with a high-tech shooting device for a leg. It’s that kind
of film, where nothing much makes sense—like Tonto dragging an unconscious
Ranger through a fresh pile of horse dung. Everything is impressively staged on
an enormous scale, from the railroad scenes to Bonham Carter’s emporium, full
of painted ladies who don’t reveal too much, lest they despoil the Disney
movie’s PG-13 rating. (Never mind the scene when Cavendish uses his knife to
cut out a good guy’s heart; that occurs just off-camera.)

I have taken great pains not to compare this film to earlier
incarnations of The Lone Ranger because I think the movie fails on its own
terms. The long, climactic chase scene is jammed with the kind of overblown CGI
stunts that render everything unreal and, therefore, unexciting. If I’m going
to make comparisons, Hans Zimmer’s use of Rossini’s “Overture to William Tell”
is the most lackluster rendition of that familiar theme I’ve ever heard. A
tinny recording of the old radio or TV show will reveal a much more thrilling
presentation of this mighty piece of music.

But then, there’s nothing remotely genuine or sincere about The Lone Ranger. The vintage half-hour
radio and TV episodes were formulaic in the extreme but they were done with
conviction, and aimed squarely at kids (and the young-at-heart). That is why
they endure and continue to entertain people, including baby boomers like me,
after so many years. I’m already doing my best to forget this misbegotten
movie.

 

         

          

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