The Lone Ranger finally made its way on to UK cinema screens this week but what should have been a triumphant gallop for the masked avenger after decades in the wilderness actually turned out to be a limp shuffle with minimal fan fare. But why was this?
The Lone Ranger is an exercise in stunning cinematography. Set back in the old West it tells the tale of John Reid’s rise from awkward District Attorney to masked hero after his Sheriff brother is murdered in cold blood by the hideous Butch Cavendish and his gang of misfit marauders. Joining Reid in his quest for justice is the damaged but deranged former Comanche Indian Tonto who acts as a guide in Reid’s transformation into The Lone Ranger – a seemingly invincible personification of justice who rides a silver horse and wears a black eye mask.
Even before the film had ever premièred on the big screen critics were already condemning it as a monumental flop. What should have been a a triumphant return to form for both Johnny Depp and Disney was mired by talk that it would fail to live up to expectations and could ultimately ruin Disney as a film studio before a single frame of footage had ever been seen. Sure I understand how protective the folk in the US are over their favourite properties but one would have thought having The Lone Ranger in the hands of Disney and Gore Verbinski would have been enough to satisfy even the most staunch of critics.
People expecting a Tarantino style revenge flick are sure to be disappointed but who in their right mind actually thought that that would ever actually happen? This is a film about a well loved American hero who refuses to ever kill anyone. Did you really think he’d be blowing holes in anyone who stood in his way while screaming expletives every five seconds? Come on! This isn’t Django Unchained. Allegedly a script had been circulating Hollywood for a number of years that was much grittier than the final movie – but it’s not like this has never happened before. It is not a unique occurrence.
I can understand why people may be upset by the way Armie Hammer handled his role as it was far less grounded in reality than the performance of anyone before him but this was Disney’s attempt top turn The Lone Ranger into the next Pirates of the Caribbean so comedy and over the top action sequences were always going to be at the heart of the movie.
Terrible promotion on this side of the pond cannot have helped peoples perceptions of the movie either. After months of hearing how bad the film you’re in is how easy can it be to actually go out on press tours to promote it? Journalists were only interested in hearing what Depp and Hammer had to say about the film being seen as garbage rather than listening to the film’s two biggest stars explaining exactly why the critics are wrong and why you need to see their movie. If the critics in the UK were happy to jump on the anti-Lone Ranger bandwagon just because of what their friends in the USA had to say then there’s no wonder why the film has been doomed to fail.
Criticism of Depp’s performance as Tonto is understandable. In interviews Depp talked a lot about bringing respect to the character and making him less one dimensional. Perhaps in a Tarantino style thriller that would have been the case but instead he does play the character as if he were Jack Sparrow’s long lost cousin – but that’s what Disney wanted. His performance although ridiculous and dare I say miscast is Disney comedy sidekick 101 and while ever this tried and tested formula makes the company money it will continue to be portrayed on screen.
Contrary to what most wannabe critics on IMDB would have you believe the film does not feel overly long at 2 and a half hours as whenever things were in danger of slowing down to a pace that would put you to sleep the film throws out another top notch action sequence to bring you back into the world of the living. At no pint did I ever feel like the film was just too long – in fact if anything the long running time simply offered more value for money and made up for the easily overlooked plot flaws etc.
If you’re planning on visiting the cinema during the school holidays then you would do well to take your little people to see The Lone Ranger. Little boys will be excited by all the shooting and the action while your daughter will have the equally handsome Hammer and Depp to keep her entertained. Depending on whether you are the mum or the dad you’ll get plenty out of it too. Sure the film is flawed but what big budget summer blockbuster – because that’s what it’s being marketed as despite what Depp would have you think – hasn’t had some similar problems in recent memory? If you measure the success of a film by how entertaining it is then how can you possibly say Disney’s Lone Ranger is a flop? I don’t know about you but when I watch a so-called summer smash I’m not expecting to learn anything. I simply want to be entertained, and that’s exactly what The Lone Ranger did.
This article was first posted on August 10, 2013