In the long line of troubled summer blockbusters, people have been keeping a close watch on The Lone Ranger. Starring Jack Sparrow himself, Johnny Depp, directed by Gore Verbinski, who brought us the first three Pirates of the Caribbean films, produced by Jerry Bruckheimer (who also brought us the Pirates franchise), and co-written by Terry Rossio and Ted Elliot (writers of all four Pirates), thankfully, this is not Pirates of the Wild Wild West. With Armie Hammer taking the lead as District Attorney turned legend of justice, John Reid, the team has managed to bring a surprisingly faithful western to the big screen.
Beginning in San Francisco, 1933, a young boy (Mason Cook), wearing a cowboy outfit complete with the Lone Ranger’s mask, wanders into a fair exhibit where he comes face to face with a stuffed buffalo and bear, and an old grizzled statuesque Native American. Before he knows it, the statue comes to life and explains himself to be the real-life Tonto (Depp). Now we go back to Colby, Texas, 1869, where we meet John Reid on a train that’s holding Tonto and the murderous Butch Cavendish (William Fichtner).
Soon enough, Cavendish’s men hold up the train and free him, with Reid trying to stop them while chained to Tonto. After an amazing train wreck sequence, Reid joins his brother Dan’s (James Badge Dale) posse to find Cavendish and bring him back to Colby to be hanged under the order of Latham Cole (Tom Wilkinson). After a double crossing, the posse is ambushed and everyone is killed, including John. Much to Tonto’s chagrin, a spirit horse informs him that John is to become a spirit walker — meaning he can’t be killed, and they begin their quest to avenge Dan’s death.
The Lone Ranger sure does take a while to find its footing. It kind of chugs and spurts along from one action scene to the next for far too long, but once the film gets to the finale it really kicks it into overdrive. This is also where we hear the Lone Ranger theme finally used and it helps create the tone we’ve been waiting for. Just because John Reid has to earn his theme song, doesn’t mean the audience should have to as well. The 149-minute runtime is way too long, but what else would we expect from the Pirates crew, right?
Director Verbinski sure knows how to shoot the hell out of a film, aided by his cinematographer Bojan Bazelli (the two also worked together on The Ring). But his duo editors (James Haygood and Craig Wood), should have found a way to quicken the pace. Almost the entire first two hours have the feel of a good old fashioned western, but considering audiences will no doubt be coming for the action, some of the story honestly could have been left on the backburner.
Hammer makes for a fantastic leading man who can move from drama to slapstick to action hero at the drop of a hat. And thankfully, Depp doesn’t spend the whole movie aping his Jack Sparrow routine. Tonto is a whole new creation, and if the cackling fangirls behind me at the screening are of any indication, they’ll eat up his Tonto routine with a spoon. It should come as no surprise that Verbinski also knows how to shoot a comedic scene as well as the action considering his first film was the brilliant Mousehunt and The Lone Ranger also feels more like a companion piece to Rango (also from Verbinski). But man, once The Lone Ranger’s finale finally gets going, it makes the entire endeavor worth the price of admission.
Photos courtesy Walt Disney Pictures