Movie Review: 'The Lone Ranger' (2013)

The Lone Ranger trotted into theaters last week after 3 years of a highly publicized troubled production. Anticipation for the quality of the film was universally low and as one of the “lone” people hoping for things to turn out differently, the honest fact is this is currently the worst movie of the year. Choppily edited with an uneven flow, this film is a tutorial in filmmaking at its worst. As a movie it is simply dreadful and we haven’t even covered the script.

For those who don’t know The Lone Ranger  follows the origin story of Tonto as he happens upon John Reid (who later becomes The Lone Ranger) during his, Tonto’s, intensely personal quest for vengeance. For fans of the original series or The Lone Ranger cannon in general, there is nothing to enjoy in this. 

As someone who viewed it with one such fan, it was a massive disappointment to them. The only way to enjoy this film as a fan would be to accept it as a spoof and partake in a few laughs at a beloved characters’ expense. This is, as that major fan pointed out, the equivalent of calling the Casino Royale  starring Peter Sellers, a James Bond movie.

See, The Lone Ranger  suffers from one of the most brutal cases of identity crisis that has ever been captured on film. The cinematography suggests that it is a rugged western with a slight pulp influence. In actuality it is a “seriously” approached spoof, a joke.

The beginning of the film, one of the most languished in some time, provides us with a child for all of the kids coming to see the movie to identity with as Tonto shares the Behind the Music version of his and The Lone Ranger’s relationship with the added bonus of their Michael Bay-style adventure.  It is here the movie takes its first of many missteps.

Attempting to copycat The Princess Bride  is about as unimaginative as you can get. The film forgets that its target audience is quite familiar with that much superior film and will notice the obvious rip-off attempt or at best clichรฉd setup for the story.

The film can’t decide if it is actually going to give the mature audience coming to the theaters what they want or pander to the money making machine that is the children’s merchandising that can be spawned from this false-start franchise. The violence in this film is in no way suitable for the very children they intend to market to.    
The film makes a mockery of The Lone Ranger character and works to assassinate any fiber or shred of character that remains. Tonto, who is supposedly filled with emotion upon seeing a kid wearing his old pal’s mask, treats this supposed friend like dirt or rather dung throughout the film. He literally drags him through feces.

This film never bothers to bring these two characters together. Their bromance is dead on arrival. There is not one soft moment between them. Armie Hammer and Johnny Depp did have an appealing chemistry that could’ve been utilized into something and instead was used as the basis for snark and constant bickering.

The star of the film is Johnny Depp and he plays it to the hilt, no question. His interpretation of Tonto is one of the better realized characterizations of the film, an honest performance. Depp doesn’t let the eccentricity that most have come to expect cloud his performance. For those who think it is a carbon copy of his Pirates of the Caribbean character Jack Sparrow, it truly isn’t. These are both eccentric and flamboyant characters seen through different spectrums.

Armie Hammer isn’t given much of anything to work with as John Reid, who is more or less a bumbling fool who demonstrates no character growth throughout the course of the movie. Mind you, Reid is supposedly a recent graduate of Law School.

The criminally underrated, William Fichtner, is menacing as ever in the role of lead villain Butch Cavendish. Another heavily lifted “homage” this time to 3:10 to Yuma character Ben Wade with an obvious Charlie Prince-like crony thrown in for good measure.

Tom Wilkinson is almost unrecognizable as railroad man, Latham Cole. He gives one of the more dynamic performances of the film. Ruth Wilson who portrays John Reid’s sister-in-law and love interest is miscast as one of the worst scripted incarnations of the deferred female lead in recent memory. 

The jumbled mess and jagged pieces make this is a downright painful film to view. Gore Verbinski lost sight of whatever it was he intended to set out and make. There is nothing original, groundbreaking or deep underneath this bawdy overwrought disaster.

Add The Princess Bride, The Mask of Zorro (1&2) and 3:10 to Yuma together and you have this pathetic attempt to imitate them. What makes this film so disappointing is that the original series this movie is based on meant something to people.

Like so many other movies that have tried to make a buck off of fan's loyalty and nostalgia over their treasured television shows, this movie only serves to make fun of what it is they loved which is sickening and downright shameful. 

The added twist of the knife is the disrespect it shows to one of the finest actors to portray the character, Clayton Moore, the original Lone Ranger. An actor, who unlike many, embraced the character that had made him famous and with dignity worked to bring a little magic back from the world of make believe into the all too real world of children’s hospitals trying to brighten up their days.

When he was made to take off the mask by a greedy corporation, he valiantly fought back. That man, that actor, will always be the Lone Ranger. He is one of the only people in Hollywood that has ever showed the character and by extension its fans the respect they deserve.

This movie can attempt all it wants to defame and besmirch the image of the Lone Ranger but I’ve got news for this "interpretation," this movie will never be the first thing that comes to my mind when I think about the Lone Ranger and you can bet it won’t be for millions more who remember Clayton Moore’s version of the iconic vigilante. Rating: 1/10 - that’s correct 1 "lone" point for cinematography.