I am a big fan of both westerns and the director of this film, Gore Verbinski. The “Pirates of the Caribbean” trilogy remains one of my favorite ones to date because it never seems to get old. Disney obviously is still trying to craft their “new” “Pirates” franchise and so far have been unsuccessful. “Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time” (2010) didn’t make a splash at the box office and neither did their other previous attempt “John Carter” (2012). So how do they solve this problem? They go back to the man responsible for giving them one of the profitable and popular movie franchises ever, Gore Verbinski. This time they are attempting to translate a beloved television/radio program onto the big screen that Johnny Depp had been for years trying to get a studio to push into production, “The Lone Ranger” (2013) I was greatly anticipating this film since the first trailer was released and I got to attend the 7 o’clock premiere at my local theater and while I can’t say this film is perfect by any means, it is still a fun, dramatic, and an action packed summer adventure that maybe doesn’t work the same magic at “Pirates” but is still a fun entertaining outing.
The story of “The Lone Ranger” shows a lawmaker named John Reid, coming back to his hometown in the west, and becomes a Texas Ranger along side with his brother. They ride off to capture an escaped criminal named Butch Cavendish when in an ambush his brother is killed by Butch and John is left for dead. The Native American named Tonto saves him and John makes it his quest to bring Butch to justice along with Tonto when they find a plot much bigger than just Butch.
The film has a lot more going than you would expect. The story is about more than just one thing. The script does, for the most part, do a good job of working those different story arcs out. The main arc of the story is the character of John Reid and his evolution as a person to “The Lone Ranger”. The man he starts off as in the beginning of the film is different than what he becomes at the end of the movie. The script never loses sight of that important piece of character development and in many summer blockbusters they do lose it.
Another great aspect of the script is the evolution of John and Tonto relationship. These duos of characters don’t start off as “buddies” or friends. In fact in the beginning John arrests Tonto. As the film progresses they do run into more conflict which each other but with even more time they start to become a great team. The two actors who play John (The Lone Ranger) and Tonto are Armie Hammer and Johnny Depp and both of them have fantastic on screen chemistry and you never doubt the personalities of these characters bouncing off one another is real.
The rest of the story is devoted to Butch’s plot. There is a large complex scheme to start a war between Native Americans and the Cavalry and on top of that there is also a scheme regarding the train company that is constructing a rail road and what all of that has to do with John’s brother. With all of this the script can start to get all over the place, trying to get to everything it wants to accomplish all at once and that’s really where the film can suffer setbacks. For the most part it is well written but you can’t help but feel they could have gone back to the script and made a few trims here and there to make room to explore these aspects of the story. There is also a romance subplot which is pretty useless and should have either been re written or tossed out all together. The plot is good and certainly tries hard and at times reaches moments of greatness but a few finishing touches of the script could have benefited the movie as a whole.
Walt Disney once said about moviemaking, “for every laugh there should be a tear.” This movie takes that approach quite literally. This film tries to strike a balance between dramatic, emotional moments with funny and laugh out loud moments. Does it work completely? I wouldn’t say 100%, but this movie is really funny. A lot better than most of straight up comedies that are released today and good quality laughs are hard to come by. This movie jokes are told right and at the perfect moments and never lag. The entire theater and I laughed throughout the movie.
The film also delves into some dramatic and more emotional moments, surprisingly there a bunch of them in the movie. Director Gore Verbinski knows how to make them just emotional enough without coming off as forced or trying too hard to make the audience go silent and feel the pain of what just occur on screen. There is a fine line and Gore has found it in the film, not that this is emotionally draining but there are enough moments to spare.
I usually don’t like westerns that become over the top and ridicules, I am a much bigger fan of the westerns grounded in reality, like the best ones are. Films like “Wild Wild West” (1998) and “Jonah Hex” (2010) are far removed from what westerns are about and use it to give people cheap modern day thrills. So what does this film do that sets it apart from those? There a general appreciation for what the west is and what a western is. Yes at times it gets cartoony but Gore Verbinski has an obvious love for the genre which is apparent in this film and his last one “Rango” (2011). He crafts the film as real as possible and because of the tone he sets for the film we are able to hold our suspension of disbelief even when the action gets at its most implausible.
That leads us into the action sequences. They are great, well shot, utterly fun and exciting. Verbinski knows how to craft an action sequence and make them engaging and fun. Some of them do go overboard even far past our suspension of disbelief even in this film. The violence of this movie is pretty violent for a PG-13 film and doesn’t feel like its holding back at all unlike the recent PG-13 zombie film “World War Z” (2013).
All of the actors deliver in the film. Armie Hammer is perfect as the Lone Ranger bringing likeability and believability to the role. Johnny Depp plays Tonto perfectly and manages to differ from other roles like Jack Sparrow. William Fichtner is a perfect villain for the film as Butch Cavendish. Tom Wilkinson is one of my favorite character actors and never disappoints. He once again gives a great performance as Cole. Helena Bonham Carter is fine in her role but it could have been easily written out and her character just wasn’t needed. Ruth Wilson is fine but isn’t a stand out as the love interest but then again neither was the romance.
This film is getting slammed by critics and unjustly so. Does the film have its problems? Yes it certainly does but the flaws do not hurt the film completely. The movie is fun, funny, dramatic and finely acted and at times well scripted. The script did have some structural problems but take it for what it is and you will have a lot of fun, hopefully there will be a sequel to this film.