The Lone Ranger is all over the place tonally, resulting in a spectacle that implodes under its own weight.


Lone Ranger PosterRating: * *  out of five stars

Review by Luke Whitmire

Plot: Native American warrior Tonto (Johnny Depp) recounts old tales about John Reid/The Lone Ranger (Armie Hammer), a man of the law who was transformed into a symbol of justice.

Let me be clear: this is not a good film. Director Gore Verbinski try’s
transplanting his successful Pirates of the Caribbean structure and aesthetic to a western setting in The Lone Ranger, only to craft an imbalanced, inconsistent, stolid, violent, oversized, politically correct incarnation of the Wild West adventure.

John Reid asks at one point in the film: “How could this be worse?” A sentiment that many fingers will share as they watch this mundane, conventional western.

Verbinski does create a beautiful aesthetic for the western genre, though. Outside of Rango, The Lone Ranger is easily the filmmaker’s most visually captivating effort to date, with awe-inspiring mountain vistas, astonishing desert locations, and the immersive widescreen frame being utilized to capture all the exhilarating views of Monument Valley. On the surface at least, The Lone Rangeris technically calibrated and exploited for perfection. The sound design, Han Zimmer’s whimsical score, production design, costume, and cinematography, imbue the film with  majestic layers that are infectious. Verbinski is a filmmaker who has an unparalleled sense of epic sweep and scope when it comes to action, and a director whose eye for extraordinary imagery is among the best of his generation.

However, Verbinski and his team of writers (Justin Haythe and Pirates scribes Ted Elliot and Terry JustinLone Ranger and Tonto  Rossio) devise an awful, interminably dull, inferior script. I really felt like I was being dragged through the hot desert sitting through  this discordant muddle of a film. The screenplay moves languidly as the characters slog through with nothing meaningful to say or do. Also, our main hero is conflicted about using firearms to enforce justice, making the narrative more complicated and frustrating to watch. But, it doesn’t surprise me that this film has an anti-gun message, due to the political mindset of the time.

Depp and Hammer have a great chemistry, but it’s a shame the script is subpar. Reid has a strong belief in the legal concept of ‘Justice,’ but what that belief entails is never explained, and that’s his main character trait throughout the film. He is always reluctant to use a gun in deadly situations with Tonto by his side; he never makes the effort to enact action on his own accord. I’m sorry, but this is not a good way to develop an iconic American hero we can support and have a deep affinity for.This has to be the one of the weakest and ineffectual heroes in recent memory. For over two hours we see Reid screaming, panicking and shrieking in fear whenever there is danger. Depp is the only force that holds these scenes together, but even his interpretation of Tonto is too eccentric and not fully developed to care about.

The Lone Ranger Over Monument ValleyThe most damaging is the lack of equilibrium the narrative inherits. I don’t know what Verbinski was going for, but he and his writers permeate the story with prostitution, cannibalism, extreme violence, genocide, slapstick humor, love and a message of how nature is out of control, and yet it’s still boring. As I mentioned above, Verbinski managed to craft an excellent movie technically, but his narrative is a tonal mess as a whole. All these ideas and mechanisms concoct an inelegant, bloated, incoherent tale.

About the The Lone Ranger himself, Hollywood has once again changed an iconic American hero so drastically to fit the political climate. Verbinski’s incarnation has the icon unsure of himself and his convictions, and he is devoid of the naturally heroic qualities and clear moral compass that we loved seeing from John Wayne and Clint Eastwood back in the day. Forgive me, but I do not want my heroes inept and adrift morally when the opposition makes a conscience decision to destroy innocent factions of people. The original character from the 50’s prevailed through a combination of courage and ingenuity and never questioned his own morality or motives. His outlook and beliefs were unwavering and his true motive was about the pursuit of justice. In the end, he was a true “Man’s Man.”

Bottom line:
The Lone Ranger is one of the worst westerns ever put on celluloid. If you want great westerns, then stick with John Wayne, Clint Eastwood, John Ford and Sergio Leone.

Rating Note: PG-13 for graphic violence.