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Monday, 16 December 2013

DVD Of The Week: The Lone Ranger (2013)


Like John Carter before it, The Lone Ranger was another victim of Disney's marketing team not understanding how to promote a classic pulp character to the general public.

The Lone Ranger also suffered from being saddled with its connections to the successful Pirates Of The Caribbean franchise and Disney's obvious desire to kickstart a similar series of movies - with the attendant lucrative merchandising.

The central performance by Johnny Depp as Tonto isn't really that much of leap from Captain Jack Sparrow. It's as if he only has the one arrow in his quiver these days when it comes to blockbuster action flicks. And did I miss the nerdrage at the racebending casting of Depp as the world's most famous fictional Native American?

But before you start thinking I didn't enjoy this film, I have to say there is a lot to enjoy about it and when the William Tell Overture kicks in for the climactic chase sequence you need a heart of stone not to be transported back to a childhood filled with plastic cowboys and Indians, cap guns and Lone Ranger action figures.

The film's grand finale is truly breathtaking - without a doubt the most incredible extended stunt sequence I've ever seen in a Western.

The problem is the film takes so dang long to get there. In total it's almost two and a half hours in duration and that's simply way too long.

Arnie Hammer plays John Reid, a greenhorn lawyer, returning to the West to see his brother, Dan (James Badge Dale), Dan's wife, Rebecca (Ruth Wilson) and their son, Danny (Bryant Prince).

He joins up with Dan - and is deputised as a ranger - to track down dangerous cannibal killer Butch Cavendish (an almost unrecognisable and decidedly evil William Fichtner).

Cavendish's gang ambush the rangers, leaving them for dead, but John is found by Tonto and nursed back to health. He then takes on the guise of the "masked man" to track down Cavendish and his confederates .

This is all well-and-good as a classic origin story, but the waters are further muddied by a very cliché plot involving a nefarious railroad man, Latham Cole (Tom Wilkinson).

Like Pirates Of The Caribbean, the script - by Pirates alumni Ted Elliott and Terry Rossio, and Justin Haythe - blends the action with humour, but this is a bit hit and miss.

There are also suggestions of a mystical angle to some of the goings-on, but - unlike Pirates - the script seems unwilling to commit to whether this is really happening or is a product of Tonto's deranged imagination.

The story also has a framing device of an elderly Tonto recounting the tale of John Reid to a boy in a 1930s' funfair, which primarily serves to give the scriptwriters licence to play with the idea of Tonto being an unreliable narrator, so they can muck around with the linear nature of the story.

This works, but isn't really necessary.

The Lone Ranger
could have done with losing about 30 or 40 minutes from its running time, but ultimately the main stretch isn't arduous - just sometimes feels it's going round in circles - and the magnificent grand finale is worth the wait.

11 comments:

  1. My wife and I went to see this in the theater and we thoroughly enjoyed it, 'twas a very fun movie, but I agree with the assessment that they could have chopped out half an hour of the movie and not hurt anything at all. I hope they make a sequel or two.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Sadly, I'm not optimistic for any sequels - as much as I'd like to see them myself - as I don't believe it made enough money (largely, in my opinion, due to poor marketing/promotion) to warrant any.

      Delete
  2. Saw the Lone Ranger in the theater with zero expectations and managed to come away disappointed anyhow. I avoided the hype/marketing, and really didn't expect it to be anything like PotC.

    And yet... I refer to this film jokingly as "Pirates 5" because it follows the same harebrained formula as the various Pirates films, getting everything wrong that the Pirates films did, but without managing to parody itself at the same time.

    So, offensive, unfunny, and worst of all... BORING.

    DO NOT WATCH.

    --Dither

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you for your comments, Dither. While its obvious reliance on the PotC formula was a major flaw, and it could could have done with some trimming round the edges, I certainly wouldn't have called it either "offensive" (except, possibly, on the issue of a 21st Century movie casting Johnny Depp as a Native American, when there are many talented Native American actors who could have played that role) or "boring".

      Delete
    2. You know, I never really got the offensiveness of casting Johnny Depp as a native american because I'm pretty sure he's played other native american roles before, plus it really isn't an issue for me.

      I could make a list of all the annoying, stupid offensive things I found in this movie, but I'll try to just hit the highlights:
      - The framing story only serves to undermine the story itself -- did any of the film's events "actually happen," or are they the depraved ramblings of an elderly man. Thanks for the sensitive treatment of the elderly! Not!
      - The inability to commit to the existence of the supernatural is worse than you let on -- it actually undermines the entire plot. Is the silver cursed or not? Did Tonto revive LR or not? Did the Spirit Horse do it? How can they perform all these seemingly magical things on the one hand, and then turn around and say none of it was magical at all? The film brings up the QUESTION of whether it may be mystical or pure luck, and utterly fails to deliver. The audience's time is wasted contemplating this utterly useless point.
      - As if undermining Tonto's reliability with the framing story wasn't bad enough, the story itself calls him a liar and a fool with his unnecessary backstory. Now he's an insane fool WITHIN the context of story too. Why am I watching this again?
      - The "good guy" in the movie is a tool -- this is where comparing the film to PotC really shows how awful Lone Ranger is. Orlando Bloom's character is a bit naive, but is confident, competent, and skilled. He's a blacksmith who's made and trained with swords throughout his youth.
      - LR's "triumphant run" IMMEDIATELY FOLLOWS THE SLAUGHTER OF DOZENS IF NOT HUNDREDS OF PEOPLE. His primary goal up to this point in the film was to prevent said slaughter. They play his THEME SONG AFTER HIS UTTER FAILURE TO DO THE ONLY THING THAT MATTERED. I became physically ILL at this point as I realized the filmmakers had NO IDEA what the LR was about. I honestly don't know what the appeal of the old school LR was, but I'd bet it wasn't "Yay! I am totally unable to save anyone or accomplish anything as a hero!"

      So, just to put things in a nutshell -- the hero isn't a hero (despite his theme song), the magic isn't magical, the storyteller isn't telling a story, and everybody dies. Yay! This was NOT supposed to be a tragedy, it was clearly supposed to be escapist summer blockbuster. So what did I just watch?

      --Dither

      Delete
    3. Oh yes, I remember now he played someone who was done up like an American Indian in the trippy Western Dead Man, but I don't think he was actually playing an Indian there.

      The framing device was unnecessary, but it was a stab at a recognised narrative device of the "unreliable narrator". I just don't think it was handled particularly well.

      I agree with you wholeheartedly about the film's attitude to its supernatural elements though, but have to agree to disagree on the "slaughter of dozens of people". While you've made me want to see this again with these specific points in mind, I don't believe we actually saw any innocents get killed. I don't think anyone was killed. We certainly didn't see any bodies!

      This film used stylised violence like old Westerns or The A-Team so the only deaths we saw were definite black hats and deaths that were necessary to move the plot along (such as the massacre of the Texas Rangers).

      The Lone Ranger has always been a proto-superhero, a masked crimefighter and I agree with you that this wasn't handled particularly well. I believe they were trying to show his evolution from a greenhorn into a skilled (supernatural?) force for good - but dragged out the klutz part of his life too long (a symptom of the films protracted duration) and failed to capitalise on the paranormal elements of the plot.

      Delete
    4. The army turned the gatling gun on the natives who were riding down to protect their land. Up to that point, the film had been building up to an Army vs. Natives fight because Cavendish was stirring up trouble.

      LR was supposed to find some kind of evidence that it was a setup, or warn somebody to avert the slaughter. The film showed us dozens of natives gunned down during a nighttime scene -- which I believe directly preceded the train-joining ceremony and LR's "big ride."

      The natives were definitely NOT black hats -- stylized or not, I think we were supposed to get that they were being slaughtered by the army.

      --Dither

      Delete
    5. Btw, I really don't mean to be argumentative, and I'll agree to disagree on anything you want. The Lone Ranger provoked a VERY strong negative reaction from me, and I just want it clear some of the parts I objected to -- some of the stuff is personal taste, but some of it is really just that bad.

      --Dither

      Delete
    6. No worries, I welcome polite and well-argued discussion. If anything you've made me want to watch the last act of The Lone Ranger again, when I have a moment, to see how I missed such a major development.

      Delete
  3. Hot Toys is taking "pre-orders" for their Tonto figure... A very well made collectable....
    We can no longer afford these figures... but they still look Cool... Have not seen the movie... The last movie that I got to see in a theater was Hannibal.... and that was a while back...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I have only ever been able to afford one Hot Toy (Agent Coulson) and as magnificent as it was I certainly wouldn't dream of parting with that much cash again for what is, in all honesty, a very nice Action Man figure.

      Cinema trips are also a rarity now (once - Thor 2 - in the last 18 months) which is why I tend to review DVDs, Netflix/LoveFilm and television movies these days ;-)

      Delete

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