Curiously nerdy posts.
Over the Fourth of July weekend, my parents typically like to watch a movie. And since I like going to the movies, regardless of how good the movie is supposed to be, I was more than willing to go along. And of course, I’ve had a soft spot for westerns ever since the first time I saw Clint Eastwood squint.
You might look at the title and think “Yeah, there’s going to be a lot more worsts than bests in this one.” And honestly, I wouldn’t blame you. Since, to be honest, this was not a very good movie. But there are bright spots to be found in even the bad stuff. And it’s always my personal goal to find them. Let’s see how well I do on that.
To be honest, I really really liked the first half hour of this movie. It caught me off guard, by setting up a very old Tonto* as the narrator of the story, telling the story back to some kid coming through his sideshow that reminds him of the Lone Ranger, mostly because the kid is rocking a white hat and a mask. It introduces all the main characters in an exciting setting: a jailbreak off a train. You see Reid, AKA the Lone Ranger while he’s still a bit of a city boy lawyer. You meet Tonto, who’s been slowly tracking the bad guy for a long time. Speaking of the bad guy, he’s got a really cool look, a nasty scar, and a reputation as a cannibal.
That, to me, was a cool modernization of a really, really old character that mostly older folks remember from the 50s.
*A lot of the weirder stuff, and the stuff that doesn’t make a lot of sense in this movie, can easily be explained away by the presence of this unreliable narrator. It’s lazy, but it works.
Also, the action was good, if a little over the top. I liked the “end of the line” moment on the train, especially. Too bad if you’ve seen any trailer for this movie at all, you’ve already seen like 75% of that.
Maybe it’s a growing guilty pleasure of mine, but I tend to love Johnny Depp in anything I see him in. I admire his unwillingness to play it safe, his desire to do something weird and make it popular. He’s excellent in straight roles, and of course excellent in his goofball roles. I’d heard well over a year ago that he was doing a “Lone Ranger” movie, and that he was playing Tonto. My reaction?
Sounds about right.
Sure, he’s not a full blooded Comanche indian or anything. But old and new Cinema is littered with people playing and depicting ethnicities that are definitely not their own, with varying degrees of success. Mickey Rooney was a cringe inducing Asian in Breakfast at Tiffany’s, while Robert Downey Jr. played a fairly respectable stereotype of a black guy in Tropic Thunder.
In this role, Depp went over the top just enough, I felt. A lot of people make the “he’s Jack Sparrow in different makeup” comparison, but I’m not seeing it. Sure, both characters have that “I’m crazy, but just crazy enough to still have a plan and know exactly what I’m doing” vibe. But his Tonto is more serious than Jack Sparrow has ever been. His goal through the entire movie is to kill one specific man, the man who killed his entire village. Even in the first Pirates of the Caribbean, Jack wanted vengeance, sure, but if Barbosa had said “sorry, here’s your ship back. No hard feelings, right?” then I’m pretty sure Jack would’ve been more than happy to just sail off, then and there. Tonto, on the other hand, would have shot him in the face first. For justice.
I first remember seeing this guy as Jack’s partner in season 3 of 24. He was pretty decent then, and I felt bad for him when he had to take one for the team in the finale. But nowadays? He’s pretty awesome. He made a memorable mid-boss styled villain in Iron Man 3. And here? He plays The Lone Ranger’s older brother, a Texas ranger who is a pretty big hero in his own right, and uses a freakin’ whip to take bad guys down when using a gun is too easy. I found myself agreeing with Tonto more than once in this movie: the wrong brother survived. He was way more interesting and entertaining than the title character. Which, when I think of it, is a bit of a problem.
I’m sure that with all I’ve written so far, that I’ve made it sound really good. Well, it’s not. The middle is actually kind of terrible. It’s disjointed, to the max. You have a shootout that ends with the villain eating someone’s heart, followed by a playful scene introducing Silver, The Lone Ranger’s famous horse. You have an intense “settler takes on indian raiders” scene that evokes classic westerns, followed by a scene that has a distinctly supernatural feel to it, with Tonto talking about how nature is “out of balance”, punctuated by a bunch of carnivorous rabbits.
This movie, quite simply, cannot decide what it wants to be. Is it a family friendly western? Is it a classic western, with homages to Once Upon a Time in the West and Spaghetti westerns? Is it actually a supernatural tale, with trappings of fantasy in it?
It tries to hit all of these notes, and as a result, misses all of them. It takes forever to get anywhere, plot wise, and whenever the plot twists happen, you saw them coming an hour ago. That, right there, is a recipe for boredom. I kept checking my watch constantly in the theater. That is NEVER a good sign, coming from me.
This feels kind of weird to write, considering that she’s been in quite a few movies where I actually liked her. She was awesome as Marla in Fight Club. She did a nice Ophelia in Mel Gibson’s Hamlet (especially the insane, about to kill herself phase). She was even fun to watch in Sweeney Todd, even if her singing voice isn’t all that good.
But here? She’s totally useless. After watching the movie, I did a quick check in my mind, and realized that if you removed all of the scenes from the movie where she appeared, you would lose exactly nothing of value from the plot. That’s never a good sign for any character. It often seems that her sole purpose in every scene is to show off her fake ivory leg, and then shoot things with the gun hidden inside. How does that even work, anyway? How does she reload? How does she clean it? Ugh.
I understand the logic behind having her. Without her, you have exactly one other female character of note, that being Reid’s love interest. And I know my misgivings with her aren’t her fault; it’s the script that is to blame, not her. But it is what it is, and she really needed something to do that wasn’t pointless.
The last thirty minutes is pretty good, and what kept this movie from being a total disaster. It’s tightly shot, and well done, with none of that shaky cam silliness I hate so much. It’s another train action scene, with cool stunts punctuated by the William Tell overture. And it works so well. The villains die the Disney way*, which is odd considering how hearts were eaten earlier in the movie. The Lone Ranger rides a horse on top of a train. The day is saved, and we get a few more funny jokes in the epilogue, before going back to the narrator for a really weird way to wrap this bloated juggernaut up.
*Disney villains will almost always die by falling from a high place, or crashing into something. It’s a mini game in itself to think of one that doesn’t.
All in all, this movie earns a ** rating from me. By my rating standards, that measures out to “Not very good, but has some redeeming features to it.” I think that’s pretty accurate. As I’ve said, the first thirty minutes, and the last thirty minutes are really quite good. The problem, then, is that this movie is two and a half hours long. Which of course means that you have to endure a terrible and meandering hour and a half of sloppy script in between. It’s kind of like a sandwich… even if you have the nicest gourmet ciabatta bread, or whatever you fancy, if you put spam in the middle, it’s not going to be as good of a sandwich as it could’ve been if you’d used braised beef, or heck, just some deli ham and turkey. I’ve seen some pretty good movies that are an hour and a half by themselves. And this movie expects you to deal with that much filler before getting to more of the good part. Plainly unacceptable.
As I’ve said many a time before, I’m a “It’s the journey, not the ending” guy. Unfortunately, this time, the journey just plainly sucked.
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