Saddle up! The Lone Ranger is not the train wreck you have expected. What a ringing endorsement, right? Surprisingly enough I went into this bombastic action-adventure with high hopes, despite knowing how critics tore apart Johnny Depp’s latest vehicle, and I was not disappointed. I am against the general consensus. I guess I could be considered “The Lone Positive Reviewer,” or at least one of the few.
Here are some factors that make Ranger ride into my heart, even if most felt it jumped over a cliff to its doom. Check out my video analysis below and my written thoughts after the jump.
I have been waiting for this film to premiere ever since its announcement by Disney some four years ago. Ranger’s production was punctuated – and almost canceled – due to its high budget, but finally the movie has seen its opening. Ranger was trampled like a horse by Despicable Me 2 in terms of box office figures and critical consensus, and yet I continue to scratch my head wondering why. Why have reviewers responded to this in such negative fashion – akin to everyone leaping onto bashing John Carter – and why have general audiences overlooked such a fun, old-fashioned Hollywood Western?
When checking out movies I evaluate them based on the quality of four criteria: acting, storytelling, technical elements, and how well the film achieves its purpose. Guess what? Lone Ranger is solid in all of these areas.
My fellow Geeks of Doom colleague Adam thoroughly covers the performances in his review of Lone Ranger. I will add that while Depp relies on his typical quirky conventions in his role as Tonto, I felt his oddball, outsider character drew as much empathy as he did bring about laughs. Though the film is somewhat hindered by its flashbacks and flash-forwards, Tonto’s disturbing roots and unforgiving prospects help realize the character’s depth. Depp is convincing. Similarly, Armie Hammer as John Reid shows his potential star status. Whether or not Hammer lands another big-budget film like Ranger may be dependent on how well casting directors can separate his commendable performance from the movie’s foreseeable poor box office numbers. Nevertheless he serves as a solid straight-man to Depp’s crazy Tonto, holding his own against a titan like Depp. William Fichtner does the villain job capably, and I enjoyed Helena Bonham Carter in her limited screen time.
The action sequences define the movie’s “wow factor,” relying on amazing stunt-work, incredible production design and impeccable attention to detail – defying the typical CGI overblown nonsense characterizing most blockbusters. Sure, Ranger is over-the-top madness when the trains take over, but it harkens back to classic Hollywood. The scenes set on the trains are worth the price of admission, proving that well-shot cinematography, framing and coordination – as well as millions of dollars to spend in developing these fast-paced settings – can be worth the wait. Remember that Lone Ranger’s release had been delayed multiple times, and I’m glad they expended the extra effort to make these moments look spectacular.
Whereas the storytelling suffers somewhat, jumping around in its tone, that failed to distract me from the overall fun I experienced in seeing these actors at the top of their game. This exuberant Western, in the hands of adept director Gore Verbinski and producer Jerry Bruckheimer, the team responsible for the first three Pirates films, does a laudable job in capturing the amusement of the trilogy without its overstated presence. Ranger reminded me of why I loved the first Pirates, only liked the second film, and felt disappointed by the third entry. The series became subsequently reliant on the action over the acting. Ranger falls in between the quality of Curse of The Black Pearl and Dead Man’s Chest, as it contains the originality of Pearl with its memorable performances, and musters to display imaginative set-pieces akin to Chest. Needless to say the shaky storytelling and 150-minute running time did not bother me very much.
Ranger’s trailers accurately portray the film you see on screen. It’s wild. It’s inventive. And it’s very entertaining. Set your expectations low, or better yet, don’t have any at all. Be stunned by how Ranger stuns in its razzle-dazzle glory. Sure, you are not going to see an epic like The Dark Knight, with its terrifically-executed social commentary and Oscar-worthy roles, but Ranger actually proves its competence in these areas. The movie non-heavy-handedly addresses the Native American plight in a thoughtful, responsible manner. And while Depp won’t garner an Oscar nod for his role as Tonto, I certainly feel he would be deserving of a Golden Globe nomination (in the comedy/musical category). If his version of Willy Wonka can get him a Golden Globe nod, why cannot his take on forlorn, mysterious Tonto?
I repeat it again. The Lone Ranger is not a train wreck. Yes, it veers off its track at points, traveling in a few directions too many, but Verbinski as conductor, and Depp, Hammer, and others as our on-board entertainment, take us on a journey that we feel glad we boarded. I ride the campaign to support Lone Ranger, much like John Carter, our other unlucky Disney film partner. Both have been unjustly condemned for their high budgets and occasional tonal issues instead of what the fine final products represent. Ranger may not be the gold standard of a blockbuster, but it’s a “silver” in my book.
What is your take on Lone Ranger? That is, assuming you saw the movie? Share your thoughts!
This is Brett Nachman, signing off. Follow me on Twitter for updates on new editions of Disney In Depth, Thursdays on Geeks of Doom!