In Disney’s reimagination of “The Lone Ranger” we find a more reluctant hero and that Tonto’s been upgraded from sidekick to “Native American spirit warrior.”
Our story begins as law man (in the academic sense) John Reid (Armie Hammer) is making his way west, a home he left behind for higher education and a career in law. He now returns to serve out justice in a court of law in a frontier that is only just being reached by railroad.
Unfortunately his plan is foiled by the bandit Butch Cavendish (a classic Lone Ranger villain if Wikipedia is to be believed…played by William Fichtner this time around), not once, but several times.
When he goes after the bandit with his brother and the other Rangers, he shortly thereafter finds himself the lone survivor of an ambush, and at the mercy of the desert and the wild antics of Tonto (Johnny Depp).
His assumed death of course leads to his destiny as the Lone Ranger. Along with Tonto (making him by definition not Lone, yes he’s the only Ranger, but he’s not alone) he goes after Butch to bring him to justice (in a court of law).
Along the way dastardly deeds are uncovered, governmental plots foiled, and I won’t spoil anything else. There’s also a half-baked romance between him and the now widow (Ruth Wilson) of his dead brother.
Did I mention there’s a framing story featuring a very old Tonto (c. 1930) telling the story to a young boy who is dressed as the Lone Ranger? It’s a cute idea, and some wonderful symbolism as we see the nearly completed Golden Gate Bridge being constructed in the background, but it complicates things without any real payoff.
…And all of this is brought to you by the team responsible for Pirates of the Caribbean.
Assuming you’ve seen any of the Pirates of the Caribbean movies the “From the Team that Brought You ‘Pirates of the Caribbean'” plastered across the movie’s poster is completely unnecessary. If Mr. Depp’s presence didn’t give it away, it would be the score, or the action sequences—some of which are eerily similar to those we’ve seen swashbuckling on the high seas.
Of course, the recycled material is not just from previous projects. There’s equal opportunity over-use in this film. If you do not have the following concepts drilled into your brain by the end of this movie, you probably fell asleep at some point: The Lone Ranger doesn’t like his mask, he believes in justice being served in a court of law, and nature is out of balance (a problem that is never truly resolved…I smell a sequel).
I wouldn’t say I hated this movie. It’s a perfectly enjoyable movie, there’s just something about it that doesn’t quite sit right and I hate to say it because of the racial implications and my love of what Johnny Depp can be at his most brilliant, but it’s Tonto.
I know some people were offended by this character…although how it took everyone so long to be up in arms about the fact that an infamously racist character was being revived and portrayed by a man who may have some Cherokee (or possibly Creek) in his family history. Call me crazy, but if I’m going to touch that role, as an actor, producer, director, etc…I think knowing that fact for certain might be a good idea. But this is a movie review, not an anthropological discussion on racism, so I’ll move on now.
This movie tries too hard to be light-hearted. There are too many humorous moments. I understand that it’s probably an attempt to defuse the possible racial tension, but it removes the bulk of the sincerity in the mean time.
There are some bright spots. First of all, the funny moments are funny, they are. There are just far too many of them. I also truly loved Helena Bonham Carter in this movie. She plays a bad ass saloon/brothel owner, and is a welcome contrast to the other female character in this movie, who tries to be tough but eventually succumbs to tired stereotypes.
I also must give props to Armie Hammer as the Lone Ranger himself. He’s likable and entertaining. I think the closest they came to making strides for Tonto’s character was through the way he interacts with him, and that they nailed. And it takes a lot of guts to go after the, “Hi Ho Silver! Away!” line. And with a little help from Tonto, he nails it.
Finally, their choice for when to incorporate the Lone Ranger theme (the William Tell Overture) is brilliant.
Again, this isn’t completely terrible. It’s a logical plot with a talented cast. You will be entertained, but I expected more, and was sorely disappointed.