Rating: 2.75 of 5
I almost don’t even want to review The Lone Ranger, I just want to talk about when marketing lies.
And I have to admit it’s not often that I’ll watch a trailer and get the tone of a movie so wrong. Even when they hedge around the edges of a story, usually I can spot it. But this was a master job of misdirection. The trailers suggested a family movie with outlandish action, a little danger, and a story full of farce and horses and trains.
But this was certainly NOT a fun family movie. Really, The Lone Ranger is an unexpectedly disturbing movie. And also it’s whimsical and has outlandish action and the concept doesn’t play nearly as ridiculously as I thought it would. But there’s a decided contrast in tone between the cartoonish action and the villain with the pockmarked face when he has blood all over him because he just ate someone’s heart. Even when a large group of people are slaughtered for the second time, I was still kind of shocked. The Lone Ranger manages to be PG-13 only by suggesting the worst of it rather than showing it outright (like showing a dark reflection of the villain eating someone’s heart instead of actually showing it. What did they think they were making, Last of the Mohicans?). Still, the villains are really ugly and there’s too much inappropriate blood.
While it’s formulaic (with a scene reminiscent of both Tortuga and Tia Dalmas – the weird [and unexplained!] cross romance elements of Pearl Harbor) there are things that were well done. Armie Hammer is a great Lone Ranger. He looks the part and he can convey the implicitly good aspects of the character. Johnny Depp actually isn’t ridiculous as Tonto. The still photographs make him look silly but he doesn’t come across that way in the movie.
The production is obviously top notch, because it’s a Jerry Bruckheimer movie. The horse stunts that weren’t completely cgi were a lot of fun. Even just the horses galloping was a refreshing change from car chases. And I enjoyed the setting a lot. Just that rougher sort of raw life was kind of comforting.
And the thing that actually worked really well was the whimsy. Because as much as the movie plays the whole Lone Ranger concept as seriously as it can, there’s also a willingness to have fun with it. Which is why I didn’t mind the cartoonish action or the ludicrous things they have Silver do. Because it’s cool when he jumps off the roof of a flaming barn. And when Silver rears with the Lone Ranger on his back and the theme music starts – it’s actually a pretty good moment.
If more of the movie had embraced that sense of fun and balanced it with a little serious story telling it would have been a much better movie and something more similar to Pirates. Instead it contrasts it with the dark and unnecessarily disturbing story and villain which tarnishes the fun.
I suppose the trailers had to lie, because if they’d conveyed the contrast of a whimsy tone and a disturbing story they’d never have covered their budget.