I was (involuntarily) exposed to the first trailer of The Lone Ranger multiple times – prior to other movie showings – and was not particularly impressed. The prospect of Johnny Depp as a kind of Jack Sparrow (Pirates of the Caribbean) in the desert did not seem at all appealing. Regarding the Pirates movies: as most will remember the first one was good, but its successors less so, in part due to their absurd story-lines. Since The Lone Ranger more or less stewed in the same pot – Gore Verbinski as director, Disney as production company and of course Johnny Depp as the lead actor – my expectations were not high.
The film starts with a boy that enters an attraction at a fair. Upon entering, his attention is drawn to an exhibition of an old native Indian wax sculpture. That Indian, named Tonto, turns out to be alive and tells him about his adventures long ago in the Old West: the film’s narrative. Some sixty years earlier, the then young Tonto travels by train as a prisoner. He shares a carriage with Butch Cavendish, who is saved from the train by his henchmen. John Reid, a lawyer who is also on the train, find himself in the middle of Cavendish’s escape and tries to prevent it. His attempt is unsuccessful and he finds himself chained to Tonto. This forms the start of a long hate-love relationship between the two men.
The Lone Ranger does not present a very meaningful story, but it also does not ever pretend that it will. It feels like a Disney ride with plenty of laughs and absurdity, though never to the point of breaking suspense of disbelief. In fact, it has a flow and feel similar to that found in (early) Indiana Jones movies. Though the film relies on a fair amount of stereotyping – William Fichtner as bad guy Butch Cavendish and Helena Bonham Carter as a brothel owner – this is quite fitting for the genre. As a relief, Johnny Depp delivers an enjoyable different character from Jack Sparrow, with good chemistry with John Reid (Armie Hammer). Not all is perfect though. The flash forwards to the fair with the boy are an unnecessary disruption of The Lone Ranger’s flow. The movie could have been a bit shorter in places, and there is some drama and sentimentality which seems to have been added as an afterthought. Luckily, the finale is actually a great ten minute train jumping roller coaster ride supported by a Hans Zimmer version of the William Tell overture: a signature of the Lone Ranger films.
Though, not as good as the first Pirates movie, The Lone Ranger is certainly not bad either. The movie has been panned by critics and is supposedly a box office bomb, but I don’t really see a plausible reason for this. It’s better overall than other (modern) adventure westerns like Wild Wild West and Cowboys & Aliens, and also better than other recent blockbusters (like Pacific Rim). If you are looking for a decent light ‘popcorn’ western movie, The Lone Ranger will provide you with an evening of entertainment. I have attached the second trailer – better than the first one that I saw so many times – below.