Hi Ho, Silver! Away… From This Movie!
Synopsis: Tonto (Johnny Depp) teaches DA John Reid (Armie Hammer) to become the Lone Ranger to avenge the killing of his brother by Butch Cavendish (William Fichtner). Helena Bonham Carter collects a paycheck. Directed by Gore Verbinski.
The average length of Gore Verbinski’s PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN films was 154 minutes. THE LONE RANGER clocks in at 149 minutes. That’s six minutes longer than CURSE OF THE BLACK PEARL, the shortest of the three. Feel free to do the math on the run time ranges of the other two, or let IMDB do the work for you (I did). For completeness-sake though, the non Verbinski directed ON STRANGER TIDES clocked in at 136 minutes.
While the PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN films became increasingly bloated and a mess of story telling by the end, they never quite felt their length. They each clipped along at an amazing pace and featured fantastical set pieces. Say what you will about the first half of AT WORLD’S END, but the climax featured pirate ships fighting in a maelstrom.
THE LONE RANGER, by contrast, moves at the speed of a runaway train… a runaway train going down a slight hill. There is a great deal that could be cut to make the film much snappier. Scenes and shots extend far beyond the amount of time needed for story telling. They just kind of linger around, often for what I presume to be the laugh bell-curve (more on that later).
Scenes are often needlessly repeated. Many times do we see the Lone Ranger reticent before Tonto must remind him, “Nature is not balanced.” We also see Jokes needlessly repeated in-scene, with Tonto making trades with dead men. Full scenes and sub-plots could be cut with no loss to the narrative, starting right at the front of the film. A wrap-around set in 1933 San Francisco has an elderly Tonto telling the story to a young boy (who looks exactly like young Jack from HOOK). This attempts to introduce a PRINCESS BRIDE like element to the film (the kid even interrupts with “that can’t happen” moments) but accomplishes nothing except taking the viewer out of the story.
Helena Bonham Carter’s three, count them THREE, scenes are similarly useless. As interesting as her ivory gun leg and presumingly iron strength vagina (see ivory gun leg) are, cutting her, her leg, and Jack from HOOK could have saved a full thirty minutes. While the Damsel and her kid do have bits to add to the overall plot, they exist solely for “a movie without a love interest.” What hell is this?
Even if cut down to two hours, THE LONE RANGER would still be slow. It meanders through its revenge/land stealing plot. Light plot spoilers that are obvious once the movie is in motion follow: Rich railroad owner villain Tom Wilkinson has a convoluted plan to steal Indian land move silver from their territory into his bank account, another plot point often repeated as he tells this plan to multiple groups of people long after the audience has pieced it together. THE LONE RANGER, however, stumbles into this plan by begrudgingly following Tonto and Silver around.
Sound interesting? Of course not. I am willing to believe Verbinski and the three credited writers were aware of their fall into a failing of so many big budget tent poles and Disney Channel sitcoms, the constant punch lines. Just about everything is played to get a laugh out of the audience, including a poop joke directed at The Long Ranger. Our hero, ladies and gentlemen! Even something has horrific as a senseless Comanche massacre scene is ended with a joke. Repeat.
Also not helping matters is a lack of caring from the majority of the actors. Johnny Depp’s Tonto is a caricature of the “Wild Johnny Depp Character” audiences have come to expect. Tom Wilkinson and Helena Bonham Carter both collect their paychecks. William Fichtner occasionally chews the scenery with his (on loan from the PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN films) minions. Barry Pepper is a cavalry captain who almost gets a bit of character after the massacre but that’s soon squashed.
Armie Hammer does well enough for what he’s given. In fact, he plays the square-jawed stoic action hero well when he’s allowed to. After his fantastic turn as the Winklevoss twins in THE SOCIAL NETWORK, I had high hopes for Mr. Hammer. Here’s hoping this doesn’t sink him.
Despite all of the negativity above, one would hope the action beats in this action movie would make it worth the trip to the theater. Unfortunately, the lack of energy throughout the proceedings extends to the handful of action scenes.
Each contain several great ideas, especially a finale featuring two runaway trains on (illogically) parallel tracks, but sadly they never reach anywhere near anything in the first three PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN. Think of the action scenes in ON STRANGER TIDES, how small and uninteresting they were compared to the previous chapters. That’s what is present here.
THE LONE RANGER… excuse me, DISNEY’S THE LONE RANGER… is not a good movie. It’s bad, but in a passive way that leaves you looking at your watch often due to bored actors, a lack of energy around the action beats, and a runtime that is far too long.
I love Disney and I’m actually behind their ownership of STAR WARS, but if it becomes “DISNEY’S STAR WARS”, there will be Force Lightning…
On Stranger Tides, the book by Tim Powers that was slightly used for the movie is fantastic. I highly recommend it. Hell, Tim Powers’ other work too.
In original character continuity The Green Hornet is the Lone Rangers nephew. In 2011’s THE GREEN HORNET, Brit Reid’s (The Green Hornet) father was played by Tom Wilkinson. Tom plays our villain who has his eye on Damsel. In said continuity, the Kid grows up to be… Tom Wilkinson. What’s going on there?
If you want to watch a Gore Verbinski western that’s actually good, see RANGO.
If you want to watch a Johnny Depp western that’s actually good, see DEAD MAN.