Monday, July 1, 2013

Disney Tries (Again) To Maintain Their Pirates Audience With The Lone Ranger!

The Good: Visually enjoyable, William Fichtner
The Bad: Unimaginative performances, Dull plot, Feels long
The Basics: With The Lone Ranger, Disney and Gore Verbinski prove that successful Disney live action adventure movies need more than Johnny Depp and special effects to succeed.

Disney has a strong history of finding what works and milking it until it is bone dry (and the remnants bear little resemblance to the once-noteworthy original work that spawned the franchise). When they hit it big with Pirates Of The Caribbean: The Curse Of The Black Pearl (reviewed here!), they created a franchise that it is virtually certain they are not done tapping. But, shrewd as they were, the executives at Disney could not duplicate the successful elements of the Pirates Of The Caribbean franchise with either Prince Of Persia: The Sands Of Time (reviewed here!) or John Carter (reviewed here!). So, in going back to the well, it is somewhat unsurprising that they would try for a new franchise that reteams Gore Verbinski (the Pirates director) and Johnny Depp (the franchise’s star). The result is The Lone Ranger.

Even more than the thin plot unified that drags the viewer from one exceedingly bloody encounter to another (very hard PG-13 here!), The Lone Ranger seems like a particularly desperate attempt to make something that viewers might want to keep returning to. They fail. There is nothing particularly original about The Lone Ranger, the peril Tonto is put in is undermined entirely by the narrative technique (which has an aged Tonto telling his story to a boy from a point many years in the future) and it lacks a zest or spark to set it apart from other, already beloved films that have Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter acting goofy. Given the comparatively short resume of Armie Hammer, who plays the title role, it is unsurprising that Tonto dominates the film in order to capitalize on the celebrity of Johnny Depp.

Unfortunately, Depp’s performance has more in common with his character from Dead Man (reviewed here!) than the quotable and wacky Jack Sparrow.

Recounted by Tonto, John Reid – a Harvard lawyer who has come out to the frontier – is with his brother and a group of Rangers when they are ambushed by Butch Cavendish. Cavendish is brutal and rumored to be a cannibal and his attack on Reid and his party confirms his reputation. It is Tonto who rescues John Reid and convinces the young man to don a mask to protect himself and those close to him if he insists on pursuing Cavendish (which Reid does). With his brother dead, nephew and sister-in-law captured, Reid has strong motivation to track down Cavendish. Together, Tonto and the Lone Ranger begin a hunt for Cavendish and his gang.

On the way, they get clues and meet with minor obstacles from Latham Cole and Red Harrington as the negotiate the wild frontier. In avoiding both U.S. military forces and native warriors, Tonto and the Lone Ranger, with their trusty steed Silver, are put on the path to avenge the wronged and save Reid’s remaining family.

The Lone Ranger suffers – in addition from being excessively, often needlessly, bloody – in that it rambles along feeling every minute of the two and a half hours that it is. It lacks real social commentary, despite having the greedy railroad tycoon (Cole, played plausibly enough by master Tom Wilkinson)and a budding conflict between the U.S. and natives. Instead, it focuses on making cheap shots at the inexperienced Reid and occasionally reminding the viewer just how ruthless Cavendish is (he is not one who would team up with the allies in a sequel a la Barbosa in Pirates).

Therein lies one of the few saving graces in The Lone Ranger: William Fichtner as Butch Cavendish. Fichtner is a wonderful character actor and in The Lone Ranger, he presents scene-stealing villainy as the antagonist. Fichtner has a way of setting his eyes that makes them cold and embody evil in a way few actors can. As Cavendish, Fichtner illustrates just how creepy and mean his performances can be and there is not a moment that he appears on screen that the viewer does not fully believe they are watching a stone-cold killer at work.

By contrast, Armie Hammer gives a very white bread performance as John Reid. While he seems fine for the fight sequences, he is bland otherwise as the Lone Ranger. Similarly, Verbinski all but labels Johnny Depp as the point of The Lone Ranger remake by giving him frequent moments that have the actor emoting his disdain, surprise or disappointment with his eyes (mostly for comic effect). The Lone Ranger is a somewhat less talkative Jack Sparrow stuck in the desert and Depp’s performance is not only unsurprising, it is largely uninteresting.

Sadly, that is the state of the entire film The Lone Ranger.

For other Disney live-action works, please check out my reviews of:
Oz The Great And Powerful
The Odd Life Of Timothy Green
Pirates Of The Caribbean: On Stranger Tides
Tron: Legacy
Alice In Wonderland
Old Dogs
Pirates Of The Caribbean: At World's End
Pirates Of The Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest
The Chronicles Of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch And The Wardrobe
The Princess Diaries 2: A Royal Engagement
The Princess Diaries


For other movie reviews, please visit my Movie Review Index Page for an organized listing!

© 2013 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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