If you’re looking for a family-friendly film to bring the whole gang out to this 4th of July week, exercise your freedom by opting out of The Lone Ranger. It lacks fun, humor, action, focus and is most definitely not family-friendly. Instead, go see Despicable Me 2.
The first two hours of The Lone Ranger (yes, you read that right – it’s much longer than two hours) is dark. Too dark. Even though we meet our villain and heroes at the same time, it takes forever to get the train rolling. There’s a huge locomotive-based action sequence in the beginning, but you’ve already seen it in its entirety if you’ve seen a single of the trailers. After this action sequence, the movie hits its first lull. Nothing happens for a while. We have to wait nearly 30 minutes for our supposed-to-be leading character John Reid (Armie Hammer) to become the titular “Lone Ranger.” Reid is deputized and he join his Ranger brother’s (James Badge Dale) posse to catch a runaway villain. Without effort, the whole posse is killed, including John.
I didn’t remember this aspect of the story from the old shows, but Reid is a Ranger brought back to life by a ghost horse in order to uphold justice in the Wild West. After the shootout massacre, a local Native American fugitive named Tonto (Johnny Depp) finds the bodies and lays them to rest. Before burying Reid, a crazy white horse brings him back to life and Tonto helps restore him to good health. With the other Rangers slain, Reid becomes the “Lone Ranger” and sets off with his new-found friend to bring his brother’s killer to justice.
When Depp was cast as the supporting character Tonto, the world asked, “Is Depp even willing to step aside for a supporting role?” As we all suspected, the answer is no. It’s obvious that because of his star power, the Tonto part was given a lot more screen time than necessary – but it’s for naught because the majority of his scenes feel forced, not fitting in at all and definitely not serving a purpose. Depp’s shallow portrayal of the Native American character mostly consists of reinforcing stereotypes and chomping up scenery with quirky Jack Sparrow-ish shenanigans. There’s no denying that Depp “Sparrows” his way through the role – only it’s not fun at all. It’s stupid. It feels as if Depp initially said to Disney, “I’ll do the movie if you’ll let me play Jack Sparrow as a Native American and if you give me more screen time than Armie Hammer.”
The middle hour of the movie is spent watching Tonto and Reid meander around the desert while the film aimlessly floats around without direction or tone. Towards the end, we finally get back to some action, but the tone completely shifts from the previous darkness to a slapsticky wackiness. And as if there aren’t any other western scenarios to to place the characters in, The Lone Ranger ends right where it started – with another crashing and careening train sequence. If you’ve seen the trailers for the movie, then you already know exactly how it ends.
With advertisements relentlessly running on every kids network on television and with the Disney banner blasted everywhere, you’d expect the studio to have made The Lone Ranger appropriate for kid audiences – even if it is rated PG-13 – but that’s not the case. I took five-year-old Little Miss Hickman to see Man of Steel last weekend. The way I see it, despite carrying a PG-13 rating, Man of Steel was suitable for her because, one, she’s more grown up than most kids; two, the violence is cartoony; and, three, Man of Steel never shows the results of the violence – dead, mangled or bleeding bodies. Disney, however, has decided to put in as much realistic violence as possible. I compare The Lone Ranger to Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom – and not just because it ends with two carts racing down parallel, yet wonky, railroad lines. You’ll see lots of people shot and killed in The Lone Ranger. You’ll see their bloody corpses. You’ll see heads crushed – not just the crushing action, but bodies left dead on the great with a huge wooden beam in the place where their heads formerly were. But the topper to this sundae of violence is the scene where John Reid’s brother is murdered in front of his eyes. With a bleeding bullet hole in his chest, John watches as the main bad guy stabs his gasping brother in the chest. In the reflection of John’s eye, while he hear his brother gargling on his own blood in pain, we see the villain cut out his heart and take a bite out of it. What in the world was Disney thinking? What parent is going to let his/her small kids keep watching the movie after that?
If you want to see what inflated egos and a ridiculously large misspent budget gets you, go see The Lone Ranger. It’s one part action, five parts boring and 100 percent bloated. It wanders all over the place like a dog without a leash in an endless field. Fortunately, The Lone Ranger has an end – it’s just a shame that it takes two and a half hours to get to it.
Photo credit: Buena Vista