Hollywood, rather coincidentally, has released two classic franchises created in the 30s (and turned into television serials in the 50s) in just under a month. The first was Man of Steel, Zach Snyder’s reboot of the Superman franchise, released a few weeks ago to mixed critical reception. Then there’s The Lone Ranger, starring Armie Hammer – hereto referred to as the Winklevoss twins (sorry Armie, had to) – and Johnny Depp, Disney’s new attempt to recreate some of the success of the Pirates of the Caribbean movies.
The approaches to their respective source material are drastically different. Man of Steel, for all of its flaws – and make no mistake, there are plenty – tried to update its titular character. The movie was a much darker, grittier take on the Superman story, and perhaps just by virtue of bringing something different to the franchise, was the far more interesting movie.
On the other hand, The Lone Ranger seems to have remained much more faithful to the spirit of its source material. Whether that’s a result of producer Jerry Bruckheimer and director Gore Verbinski trying to capture some of the feel of the Pirates of the Caribbean movies or simply a genuine homage to the energy and goofiness of the classic TV serial doesn’t make much difference; the approach just isn’t as intriguing.
In all fairness, Superman has had a much longer and storied career on the big screen. It may not be entirely fair to make the comparison. But one would expect that a character like the Lone Ranger, that’s had such a long hiatus in the public consciousness, should feel well… fresh. Unfortunately, a script meant to reintroduce the hero back into the world does him no favours.
Like many westerns, The Lone Ranger is centered on the railway. John Reid (Armie Hammer) is a district attorney on a train home to Texas when he is caught in the middle of a prisoner escape. Before long, he’s deputized a Texas Ranger by his brother Dan (James Badge Dale – one of the few bright spots in the movie) and sets out to catch notorious criminal Butch Cavendish.
John’s evolution into the Lone Ranger is a rather long and tedious journey. Frankly, the length of the movie seems to be its most glaring weakness. The Lone Ranger is filled with unnecessary characters (see Helena Bonham Carter’s brothel owner Red Harrington) and side journeys that seem to accomplish little in terms of plot or character.
Perhaps the most intrusive example is the side plot between John and his brother’s wife Rebecca (Ruth Wilson). Rebecca (and the romantic element she brings along with her) is just so jammed into the movie that if she were removed I’m not sure if any editing would be required to salvage the plot. In fact, she spends so much time simply reacting to the situation she’s in that I can hardly even come up with a distinguishing feature about her.
All that aside, I guess the best way to summarize all of what I’ve said so far is that I was bored. The pacing of the movie seems to move at a crawl no matter what the situation. At times it feels like the action set pieces are few and far between and yet when they do finally appear, they themselves seem as though they drag on and on.
My main problem with the latter element is that all the razzle dazzle just feels a little overly choreographed. I’m not saying every gun battle or train heist needs to be a lesson in ballistics or the proper way to mount a saddle, but there are too many moments that feel like circus stunts. You almost expect the stunt supervisor to come out and take a bow and frankly, that’s just not my cup of tea.
If the action were funnier I may have a different opinion. But the jokes, relying mainly on quips about the ridiculousness of what are already very contrived situations, just aren’t strong enough. Is it just me or have the big blockbusters done that a little too often in the last few years?
Needless to say, Johnny Depp’s quirkiness or the odd nod to the cornier elements of the source material just couldn’t save this one for me. I’m sure there’s an audience for this movie – kids in particular might love it (though find me the kid that can sit through a two and a half hour movie) – but the lack of compelling characters, not to mention the sheer length, makes The Lone Ranger a largely forgettable blockbuster.