THE LONE RANGER
Just Another Family-Friendly Violence-a-palooza from the Good Folks @Disney.
“Hi-Yo Silver!” and Gold, Dollars, Euros, Yuans and many, many other foreign currencies!
Disney and mega-producer Jerry Bruckheimer hope they have found their next treasure chest filling Hollywood franchise in The Lone Ranger. Created by the gang behind the Pirates of the Caribbean movies (star, director & writers), The Lone Ranger returns the American icon to the big screen. Will America care? One of this summer’s big spectacles carries considerable expectations with its hefty ($250 million dollar) price-tag and star Johnny Depp. The investors must be nervous as the movie is very hit-and-miss. It is alternatively entertaining and frustrating. It shows off the Hollywood blockbuster at its best (set pieces, visual look, humor) and its worst (extreme violence, wandering plot and thin script.)
The story starts in a museum in 1933 where an old wax Tonto (Depp) comes to life to regale a young boy dressed up in a Lone Ranger outfit. Tonto tells the story of how a young lawyer John Reid (Armie Hammer), became the Lone Ranger to avenge the murder of his brother at the hands out notorious outlaw Butch Cavendish (William Fichtner). He tells him how they brought down the slimy railroad tycoon Latham Cole (Tom Wilkinson) too. He tells his own origin story about how he was tricked by the white man that resulted in the massacre of his tribe. The Lone Ranger has too many stories going on, even for it’s 149 minute running time. The movie starts promisingly with an Indiana Jones-vibe only to quickly get bogged down in the middle. It gathers steam at the end as the stories combine for the inevitable big set-piece finale.
Depp and Hammer have a good chemistry onscreen. Tonto supplies comic relief while the Lone Ranger plays the straight-man. Hammer is decent as leading man yet he spends most of the film screwing up before he becomes the Lone Ranger. His skills rely a lot on pure luck and getting bailed out by his spirit horse Silver, the same way R2-D2 bailed out Luke Skywalker. The writer gang clearly were shooting for the film to be a modern-day myth as they slavish followed Joseph Campbell’s “hero’s journey” as outlined in his seminal work The Hero with a Thousand Faces. In a nutshell, the hero must refuse his call to action, tragedies befall forcing the hero on a journey with more challenges which must all be overcome and then, the hero will possess self-knowledge that can save everyone, most of all himself. Heady stuff, exactly what George Lucas applied to Luke Skywalker, hey, there’s that comparison again!
All right, so the story is a mess as it attempts to attain myth, what’s good about it? The visuals are fantastic, much like in westerns, the movie makes great use of its wild-west settings and clothes. With an immense budget you would not expect them to skim on sets and costumes, they don’t. There’s plenty of action sequences, giving a lot of bang for the buck. As the movie continues from sub-plot to sub-plot, the action begins to grind you down as it keeps upping the ante. You just wish they would’ve tightened up the story some and cut out about twenty, thirty minutes. Hans Zimmer’s over-the-top score did manage to weave in the iconic William Tell Overture in the end. The movie doesn’t revere it’s source material like John Carter did, it’s more like Starsky & Hutch in it’s approach. Guess that’s a sign of the times where everything deserves a piss-take.
What does this story say about America today? For a PG-13 movie, it is packed with unsettling Merrie Melodies-level of violence. It has political angles for everyone – the federal government is corrupt, the capitalists are evil murderers, the white man abused the Native Americans and Chinese horribly and there is only outlaw justice on the frontier. This seems to be the new norm for Hollywood blockbusters, although this approach leaves everything muddled. Stories are how a culture passes on it’s values and lessons to the next generation. The Lone Ranger is marketed as a family movie, one that happens to include decapitation, tons of murders, massive destruction of private property, violence towards women & children, and plenty of sexism & racism. Also, do NOT even get me started on the absolute atrocity of Disney’s “history” used in this movie.
How do we as a society right these wrongs?
We sit around and wait for the superhero rock-star to save us from ourselves.
Right, OK, great message Disney.