It has been a long time since I’ve walked into a film with this much trepidation. But despite the film getting monumentally bad critical responses, so bad that showings here in the UK have been virtually deserted, I didn’t find the film that bad.
Seen from the perspective of his Native American sidekick Tonto, the film shows the origin of The Lone Ranger and his transformation from zero to hero. The construction of a railroad brings unrest between the settlers and native Indian tribes, while a bloodthirsty outlaw becomes a vengeful obsession for our two heroes.
It is very easy to see why people dislike the film, and I must agree that there are some pretty strange decisions made here (not just casting Johnny Depp, as many critics argue). The film is far, far, far too long; an hour could have been cut clean out of it and more fun could have been had. The Lone Ranger began its life as short serials, I doubt it had any desire to become so bloated and overcomplicated.
In true Jerry Bruckheimer style, this film has a lot of needless padding and abundance of characters that plagued the Pirates sequels. Heck, one of William Fichtner’s villain’s lackeys is a replica of the glass-eye pirate from those films, parasol and all! Helena Bonham Carter’s character was unnecessary too and could have been easily written out.
There are some pretty weird little things too… Tonto acting insane and feeding the dead bird on his head, flesh-eating rabbits (yes, you read that right) a horse standing in a tree, and a strangely unnecessary narrative framing device that has circus-performing Tonto as an old man telling the story to a little boy in 1933.
Add to all of this that the film has a lot of cliche Western visuals. It is almost every Western you have ever seen crunched into one film.
So wait, wait, wait. I told you I didn’t find the film bad, but it sounds like I did? Well, I am explaining how it can easily be seen as bad, it is vulnerable to being beaten up.
There are some very good characters here, despite some of them being unnecessary. Depp as Tonto is NOT (I repeat, not) as bad as people are exclaiming. While we live in a very Politically Correct environment and I admit casting a lesser known but more fitting actor would have been more compelling, he isn’t unbearable. In fact he very rarely goes full “Jack Sparrow”.
The visuals are impressive, a lot of the comedic moments are genuinely funny, but what I loved most was the last 25 to 30 minutes. While it takes the film forever to get there the finale is amazing! Mostly because that all too familiar Lone Ranger “theme” comes booming heroically out at us, you cannot help but be swept up in it. Oh, and Silver the horse is great. But that’s hardly surprising.
There are little silver nuggets of greatness in this rather tedious pile of obscurity. Unfortunately it is easier to focus on the things wrong with it as a film rather than the individual parts that make it unique, this is mostly because it spends way too long focusing on these unnecessary elements.
Too long, too complicated, too confused, this film is more like Prince of Persia than Pirates of the Caribbean from Disney. But it has its moments, and they are genuinely good moments! I just wish and wish the film was ninety minutes long rather than a mind numbing one-hundred and fifty.
Additional Marshmallows: It should be mentioned that this film has some surprisingly graphic scenes in it. People are shot through the head with arrows, a man has his heart cut out of his chest, people are liberally shot and maimed throughout! Even Disney is pushing the boundaries of what 12A can likely provide.