Starring: Johnny Depp, Armie Hammer, William Fichtner
You may like this if you like: Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl (Gore Verbinski, 2003), John Carter (Andrew Stanton, 2012), Raiders of the Lost Ark (Steven Spielberg, 1981)
Idealistic lawyer John Reid (Hammer) returns to his home somewhere in Texas and along with his brother (James Badge Dale), and his fellow Texas Rangers, rides out into the desert to hunt down notorious outlaw Butch Cavendish (William Fichtner playing a bad guy as usual). They are ambushed and all killed, except Reid who is as good as dead until Tonto (Depp), a renegade Comanche rescues him mainly due to the insistence of a mysterious white horse (don’t ask). Presumed dead and discovering the justice and law he believed in is filled with corruption, Reid forms an unlikely (and admittedly reluctant) partnership with Tonto to fight the injustice. Wearing a mask to keep his identity secret (well, sort of) Reid becomes ‘The Lone Ranger’ to stand up against the corruption and potential slaughter of innocent Indians. Or at least it something like that, at 149 minutes there is more to it than that, but trust me; plot is not too relevant. There are trains and Tom Wilkinson involved in there somewhere too.
For some reason The Lone Ranger has been released a good month earlier in America than the UK, inevitably meaning I have heard all the comparisons to John Carter as it is equally poor in box office receipts as it is as an actual film. Well, to be perfectly honest I actually thought John Carter was ok. It was by no means great with many things wrong with it, but I found it perfectly watchable and have seen far, far worse. The Lone Ranger is actually similar in my view, it is overlong and an absolute mess with many things wrong with it, but once again I have seen far, far worse.
So, where to start? Well, you would have thought Gore Verbinski, Bruckheimer, the Disney bigwigs and the writers of Pirates of the Caribbean (Ted Elliot, Justin Haythe and Terry Rossio) would have learnt their lesson after the ridiculous running time of numbers two and three. Unfortunately they have not, and at 149 minutes The Lone Ranger is at least 30 minutes too long. Of that trilogy (forget On Stranger Tides) numbers 2 and 3 were too long, overstuffed and ultimately a mess compared to the extremely enjoyable number one. There is of course the whole origin story to sort out but it could have been done more efficiently with many unnecessary moments (Monty Python and the Holy Grail style rabbits, anyone?) that would have made this a much leaner and ultimately more fun experience.
One thing I could not comprehend is the Night at the Museum style framed narrative, these scenes add nothing at all and though maybe the intention is to add nostalgia and heart, they are ultimately boring and only extend an already bloated running time. The narrative itself is extremely inconsistent in tone; sometimes death defying moments are portrayed with a light farcical tone, while there are sometimes quite dark and serious moments that more than justify the 12a rating. The former is absolutely fine, but the latter (along with the bum numbing running time) means that it is inappropriate for a young audience. Is it a kid’s film? Is it a family film? Is it more for young adults? The answer is yes to all of them and no to all of them depending on what scene you are talking about. One minute we see a horse licking scorpions off our heroes faces complete with tongue in cheek dialogue while they are buried in the ground, the next William Fichtner is cutting out someone’s heart or Indians are being slaughtered.
The plot shows no care for logic either (A, why is he at the top of a scaffolding tower on a mountain top? B, how the hell does he then get down? ), with many of the more ‘mystical’ elements simply being there for a convenience more than anything else just to find a way to get our heroes (and the screenwriters) out of a pickle. This would be forgivable if the film was more consistently light hearted, but for me it just about got away with it as there were many likeable elements.
I found both leads extremely likeable and I thought they shared good chemistry. Armie Hammer proved he is a good actor in The Social Network and I thought did an extremely solid job here. Though maybe sometimes seeming lost and a tad out of his depth, he is very likeable and his comic timing is pretty good. Though Johnny Depp may be essentially playing Jack Sparrow with a dead bird on his head, I found him very likeable and entertaining, even if he was given some cringe inducing lines of dialogue. It is this dialogue that for me made the film funnier than perhaps initially intended; some of the dialogue and plot developments are so bad that you have to laugh at them. Otherwise you would probably cry!
The budget (which they may not get back) is also well spent with some extremely enjoyable set pieces. There is an extremely good use of setting with the traditional Western setting of Monument Valley used very effectively. The final action set piece, though requiring patience to actually get to, is an absolute blast. Set to Rossini’s William Tell Overture it is a physics and logic defying farce (possibly with a Benny Hill influence) but is outrageous fun and if I am brutally honest, worth the two hour wait.
Oh, did I mention that Helena Bonham Carter was in it and that her character has a rather fancy wooden leg? No? That’s alright then.
The Lone Ranger is certainly many things: Inconsistent, stupid, funny, farcical, too long and overstuffed are a few words that come to mind for me. Take off 30 minutes or so and this would have been a very enjoyable silly romp, but overall for me there is enough fun for it to just (and I mean only just) get away with it. Good chemistry and enjoyable/bonkers set pieces may be its ultimate saviour and I would say worth renting at home, but most definitely not worth £10 of your hard earned and a numb arse. The Lone Ranger it is by no means great with so many flaws, but as I have said before; I have seen far, far worse.