Reel Matt

This blog started as my movie marathon — watching a movie a day for a whole year — and has continued as a place for me to write reviews about movies, TV, and various other items.

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The Lone Ranger

Film #359

THE PLOT

Native American warrior Tonto recounts the untold tales that transformed John Reid, a man of the law, into a legend of justice.

Year 1, Day 359

BEFORE: While The Lone Ranger won’t be the last film I see in theaters, it will be the last advanced screening of the marathon’s first year. From the Gore Verbinski/Johnny Depp pair (last worked together in Rango, also known for their work on the first three Pirates of the Caribbean films), this seems to be right out of their playbook. While it could be great, I am going in a bit skeptical. Johnny Depp appears to be playing a character very similar (almost identical in look) to that of Captain Jack Sparrow and the film seems to be focused more on the action than story. But the two have done great work together before so I’m hoping this is one of those great works.

AFTER: If there’s one thing The Lone Ranger is good for, it’s the stunning visuals. I mean absolutely breathtaking. Besides Django Unchained, I don’t think I’ve seen another Western in theaters, and to see these wonderful vistas of the West is a sight to behold. But other than that, there really isn’t much The Lone Ranger has to offer. It’s a decent, overdone story at best, and it’s filled to the brim of a ten-gallon hat of questionable choices.

Let me start with the part that annoyed me most: the whole film is just Tonto (Johnny Depp) recalling a story to a young kid (Mason Cook). I believe similar situations have come up in other films and I always reference Titanic. That film has a similar setup where the entire film is just old Rose telling her experience of how the RMS Titanic sank. The difference between the two, and why it fails in The Lone Ranger, is purpose. In Titanic, Rose recalling her tale in the present day wasn’t as important as the tale itself, but it still was an ongoing plot that added to the film. We saw how looking back affected Rose and it gave us a framework for hearing a story where the ending is already known. In The Lone Ranger, Tonto and the kid are merely tools. They don’t really serve a purpose; they’re just there. There’s no story going on in the present day, there’s nothing these characters are adding to the tale, they’re just faces to associate with the mouths. It’s like taking a voice over narration and just including a few scenes here and there to show the person talking. I might have been able to accept and go along had it just been narration (recounting the story after the fact could have worked for the story) but including the pointless talking heads made it tedious.

That leaves me with the content of the story. Above I called it overdone and full of questionable choices. In terms of the overdone part, it’s full of Western tropes and stereotypes ranging from: the sheriffs and the good guys who only want justice, the outlaws who just want to commit crime and take all they find, and various other things like public hangings, wide availability of guns and alcohol, and lots of horses. And there are others, that while not necessarily pertaining to Westerns, are common occurrences in films including: bad guys pretending to be good guys, brief seizure of power, and false endings. Using standard elements isn’t inherently bad (the reason they’re used a lot is because they work) but in the case of The Lone Ranger there wasn’t anything special. I could have been watching any movie (Western, action/adventure, comedy - any movie) and the only differences would be visual: where it took place and what the characters looked like. As I said earlier, the film looks absolutely stunning, but that’s the only calling card The Lone Ranger has. Other than that there’s no substance.

Questionable choices I’ve already touched upon briefly. In addition to showing the narration that’s occurring, there are a few other things that left me less than satisfied. The first being the bird atop Tonto’s head. Constantly throughout the film you see Tonto “feeding” the lifeless bird and everyone else commenting about it. It’s a lot of build-up and a lot of focus but the payoff you get at the end is almost insignificant. For the amount of time and energy that went into referencing that bird, the end result was way disproportionate. Similarly, the inclusion of Red (Helena Bonham Carter) was also lacking in a satisfying result. While she doesn’t get nearly as much screen time as the bird, the scenes that Red is in, she commands a lot of attention, all for a relatively minor role. She is Helena Bonham Carter, which is probably why she got so much focus, but there’s a limit as to how much you can show a star just cause, and The Lone Ranger met and exceeded that limit.

To say I didn’t enjoy The Lone Ranger whatsoever would be a lie. While the overwhelming majority was unoriginal and quite boring, everyone once and a while there would be a scene that had me laughing or tensed up at what was about to happen. But as a whole, there wasn’t much to like and not a lot was entertaining because it felt like I’ve already seen the film before, it just looks different. I’d recommend choosing to see something else in theaters, something that has some semblance of originality. If you do decide to see this film, in theaters or at home in a few months, don’t expect much. If you act like you’re watching Planet Earth, you’ll get much more out of it than if you act like you’re watching Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl.

The Lone Ranger opens in theaters next Wednesday, July 3, 2013.

RATING: 2 out of 5