Blockbuster identity crisis
Sure to become known as “The LONG Ranger,” resulting from its two-and-a-half hour length, Disney’s latest blockbuster is not the train wreck (though it contains plenty of them) you might expect considering those involved. After all, Jerry Bruckheimer produced and Gore Verbinski directed the four “Pirates of the Caribbean” films (only one of which was fully watchable), and those earned billions while making an even bigger star of Johnny Depp.
The team is back, trying to resurrect an old-fashioned radio/TV icon in the ‘masked man” himself. With that in mind, using a classic western for evaluation purposes seems fitting:
THE GOOD: Armie Hammer (Lone Ranger) and Johnny Depp (Tonto) work fine together, and the primary villain (William Fichtner) is credibly menacing. With an estimated budget of well over $200 million, the plentiful action sequences are done with elaborate and ambitious precision. And the western landscapes are classically inspired.
Depp’s Tonto could have been much more embarrassing than the droll, deadpan, just-barely-acceptable stereotype Indian he pulls off here while providing most of the film’s limited comic relief.
THE BAD: Suffering from a case of movie-multiple-personality disorder, the film’s target audience seems difficult to ascertain, which causes some awkward tonal shifts. The body count is high (though not bloody) and one brutal murder scene is awfully savage for anything pretending to be a family-friendly film. Those who remember the Lone Ranger of yore (who likely don’t see that many movies) may be dismayed by the titular character’s milkquetoast personality and lack of heroic drive – though one could argue this is mainly an origin story.
THE UGLY: Particularly repulsive to many Lone Ranger fans may be the way the script, in the film’s overly long second half, appears to denigrate American history. The all-wise Indians are slaughtered by the treaty-breaking U.S. Army, the transcontinental railroad is built solely by greedy capitalists, and even a performance of the Star Spangled Banner takes a major hit. (Symbolism?)
That being said, if you’re not a protective parent, a long-time Lone Ranger fan, a sensitive patriot, a wondering-where-his-career-went Johnny Depp fan, or a movie fan who doesn’t mind when a movie runs 150 minutes for no apparent reason, you might find something to enjoy in “The Lone Ranger.”
But it’s hard to imagine Disney would spend so much money on such a narrow audience. And no doubt the box office will reflect just that.
Rated PG-13 for sequences of intense violence and action and some suggestive material.