The Lone Ranger (2013) Advance Review
Reviewed by Tyler Davies.
This year’s summer season has certainly not been devoid of popcorn movies and next week’s release The Lone Ranger is yet another addition to the flock. Quite a lot of hopes are pinned on this adventure movie and its exterior certainly gives the impression that it’s a sure-shot bet for entertainment. With a stellar cast, imposing budget and distinguished director, it seems like a relatively unblemished package. As it turns out though – it is not.
The movie tells the tale of John Reid (Armie Hammer) – a righteous man of the law – who returns to his hometown after a hiatus. He soon finds himself in a dispute with the outlaw Butch Cavendish and becomes steadfast on bringing him to justice. On a venture to apprehend the Cavendish gang, John and his courageous brother are ambushed and callously gunned down. Tonto (Johnny Depp), a savvy Indian, finds the dead bodies and buries them in the dirt. However, John is soon awakened from the dead as he is a “spirit walker” – a man who cannot die in battle. The rest of the movie narrates the tale of how the two common men evolve into notorious heroes.
The basic storyline may give off the impression that this is a gritty film, but it is far from it. The director Gore Verbinski’s execution of the story is fun, in the vein of the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise which he also happened to helm. Whilst it’s not nearly as complicated, it does carry the same essence of tongue-in-cheek adventure. Humor is infused into the narrative on numerous occasions and both the lead characters are often portrayed as blundering buffoons (much like the infamous Jack Sparrow). A majority of the action revolving around trains is similarly boisterous with the laws of gravity and other sensibilities thrown off the railroad track (excuse the pun).
Despite this though, there are some strikingly grotesque scenes to be found, all of them with the villainous Cavendish at the center. His affinity towards performing heinous rituals towards his deceased victims really doesn’t collide well with the light-hearted tone of the movie and one really has to question why this macabre plot point exists. If it is to give John a stronger incentive to bring him down then it certainly should have been signified better. Overall, there are a lot of inconsistencies regarding the tone of the movie. Even though the story is frivolous at its core – there are many darker plot points thrown into it. The writers clearly had a very disjointed vision and the result is an unsatisfying collage.
In fact, there are more inconsistencies, most importantly with John’s characterisation. After losing his brother he does some comparatively uncharacteristic things and, whilst this is understandable, there should have been a distinct transition. Merely something simple like a line of dialogue which signifies his change of heart would have been acceptable. Sadly, the focus remains on the unrelenting action and the characters don’t get nearly enough breathing space.
The hefty amount of mundane characters in this movie makes it lag a lot, but the two lead characters are undoubtedly its backbone. There are some genuinely funny lines between them and they are far more amusing than the slap-stick humor which overwhelms the flick. I wouldn’t categorise the dialogues as absolutely hilarious, but they are certainly rib-tickling. The two leads do a noteworthy job too. As mentioned earlier, John’s characterisation is rather shabby, but Armie Hammer enacts his part with enough vigor to make the character appealing. Tonto on the other hand is written well and enacted well. Johnny Depp gives a sterling performance all throughout, but it’s admittedly disappointing to see him succumb to doing yet another commercial film. It’s always nice to see him slip into Jack Sparrow-mode because it’s a rarity, but now he seems to be doing such roles quite often. There are a few points in the movie where Tonto resembles Sparrow and is it frustrating, even though it’s on an infrequent basis.
Another element of The Lone Ranger which tends to frustrate is the action. The movie begins with a bombastic, fun-filled action sequence on a train which I strangely found to be enjoyable. It’s jovial and engaging; something which I expected from the rest of the action set-pieces. Alas, no. The rest are merely nonsensical and lifeless fights, most commonly on trains (seriously – trains get a lot of promotion in this movie). Occasionally there is a glimmer of hope with a western shoot-out coming into play, but then it is interrupted by an explosion or our heroes magically flying off on a horse. The worst part though is the over-bloated climax where absolutely all sense evaporates. The stunts on the train are wholly unfeasible and surreal – making any sense of tension unobtainable. Perhaps that is also the reason for the tediousness which plagues it all throughout. One things for certain though, it severely needed trimming to make it more taut and enthralling.
The Lone Ranger’s editing is indeed its major flaw. At approximately 140 minutes it is far too overblown as it engages itself in too many paltry subplots. It could have really benefited from being leaner because the extensive length is probably its most unattractive quality.
With its tonal inconsistencies, monotonous action and sizable length – this adventure flick leaves much to be desired. Even its comedic elements and charming leads aren’t enough to salvage it from falling into the ranks of generic summer-movies. I therefore recommend you give this one a miss!
The Lone Ranger opens in UK IMAX theaters from 7 August in advance of the wide release on 9 August.