*. What a mess. Perhaps not as bad as it was made out to be at the time, but still a terrible mess.
*. When I say it’s not as bad as it was made out to be I’m referring to all the bad press it got. It was way over budget, didn’t perform well at the box office, and even caught flack for the casting of Johnny Depp as a Native American. For the most part it was panned by critics. But despite all this, it’s not a disaster or a terribly bad movie. Just a mess.
*. Let’s start with the good stuff: the big action sequences, usually involving trains, are actually pretty good and probably played very well in theatres (where I didn’t see it). This is a really big movie, with an expansive vision of the West that looks awesome.
*. Another thing I liked is Depp’s performance as Tonto. Maybe not politically correct, but enjoyable enough.
*. But moving on to what I mean by a mess.
*. In the first place the tone is all over the place. At times it’s a broad, slapstick farce, with the somewhat thick Lone Ranger (Armie Hammer) blessed with indestructibility and being bailed out time and again not just by Tonto but by his magical horse Silver as well. Then at other times things take a turn for the dark, with the evil Butch Cavendish even cutting out his victims’ hearts and eating them. I just didn’t know what they were going for here.
*. Related to this problem with tone is whether they were looking to mythologize or demythologize a particular vision of the West. At different times they seem to be going for both, but the two are irresolvably in conflict.
*. Another big drawback was the lack of a romantic interest. Normally I wouldn’t care about this either way, but the thing here is that they sort of introduce it, with John Reid being in love with his brother’s widow, but then they can’t really do anything with it. Compare, as I think you must, Pirates of the Caribbean and the relationship between Orlando Bloom and Keira Knightley. Since this movie was clearly designed to be a similar sort of production (the same studio, director, star, and writer) I thought they were crazy just to insinuate something here and not do more.
*. Finally, it’s too much. The run time is 2 hours and 30 minutes, which is a haul. It’s wrapped up in an irritating frame which has an aged Tonto telling the story to a super-cute kid at a fair years later. Why bother with this? And as impressed as I was by the big action scenes I thought they all tended to go on a bit too long. They look spectacular, but like the rest of the plot they play out in predictable ways. Reid having to struggle with his law-and-order scruples, for example, just gets tedious after a while.
*. As with a lot of movies that flop in a spectacular way there has been a swing of the pendulum back. And, as also often happens in these cases, it has swung back too far. The Lone Ranger, as I’ve said, isn’t a bad movie. But for all the time and effort lavished on it, it seems very unsure of what it was all about. I found it loud but not very engaging.