"My favorite part was when the horse drank a beer and burped" - My 5-year-old nephew.
This is the kind of humor you can expect from The Lone Ranger, Disney's latest resurrection of an old character that nobody was asking for. You also get to see things like a grown man having his head dragged through fresh horseshit, and Tonto repeatedly attempt to feed a dead bird as a gag. You might think then that The Lone Ranger is a movie geared towards kids. Well, it also features a scene of the main villain eating someones heart (although its not seen clearly), many people are shot several times, and others are brutally killed when thrown from moving trains while watching their bodies hit the ground and violently roll away. The disconnect in tone makes it really hard to pin down exactly what kind of movie it was supposed to be or whom it's meant for. Brutal violence juxtaposed with childish attempts at humor. This is a Disney film? If you're expecting family entertainment, you might have to be careful depending on what you want your kids to see.
I realize I'm being a bit of a hypocrite here as I saw The Lone Ranger with my 5 and 8-year-old nephews (and their mother), but they cut their teeth on the Indiana Jones movies, which also feature scary moments and brutal violence, so we knew that The Lone Ranger wasn't anything they wouldn't be able handle. The younger of the two slept through most of the film anyway, so it really captivated his attention. Oh, and don't think for a second that The Lone Ranger is in the same league as the Indiana Jones series. Well, maybe except for The Crystal Skull. I'm still irritated with how bad that movie was.
Anyway, my older nephew said his favorite parts were "that crazy horse" and "all the train parts", and that's really the strength of the film. It's bookended with two pretty entertaining scenes, although I thought the final one was a little much. That leads into one of the other main problems of the film in that it's way too long. In between these two action scenes is two hours of meandering backstory, undeveloped side characters, and just general nothingness.
When watching The Lone Ranger, it will feel like something that was assembled together from various parts of other films. At times it's a serious western, then it's a buddy cop film; there's undeveloped mystical elements, and a shoehorned love interest. I get the vibe that even the writers (and there were three of them) and director Gore Verbinski weren't sure what type of film they wanted to make, so they just tried a little bit of everything and hoped that something would stick.
Within the plot - what little there is of one - there didn't seem to be any concept of time or distance. Characters appear when convenient or needed by the script. Early in the film, you see Tonto in a jail cell, but in the very next scene, he's not only out of jail, but he's caught up with people that have been on horseback for several hours. A character even asks Tonto how he got out of jail, only to not answer the question. Just because you acknowledge the inconsistency to the audience, it doesn't let you off the hook for it, especially if you don't even bother to answer your own question.
Adding to this, I'm not even sure why this was called The Lone Ranger. It's really all about Tonto. The story is told from his perspective, you get more of his backstory, and he's the only competent one that does anything effective. I get that they were trying to capitalize on Johnny Depp's star power and the Pirates connection, but while Depp is one of the only good things about the film, Tonto doesn't have any of the charm of Captain Jack Sparrow.
Armie Hammer as "The Ranger", is more of a secondary character. He's never all that interesting or compelling. This isn't the fault of Hammer or his performance - I like Armie Hammer - it's just not very well written. They don't give you any reason to think he's a badass or even a capable hero. In fact, they make a point of stating several times that he's not a fan of guns and refuses to use them on multiple occasions. Yet every time he does shoot a gun, he hits his target perfectly. He does this on accident at times, so you don't see where any skill comes in. Tonto states he cannot be killed in battle, but never really delve into that either. However, they do show you that both he and Tonto and superheroes. In that early action scene, they are thrown from a speeding train and you see them roll around at high speed. You see others in the film die from this, but after they are just sitting there without a scratch on them. Later in the film, they fall from great heights without any ill effect. I'm sure this is meant to be ridiculous action like many Summer films, but most films work up to that kind of ridiculousness as the film goes on, or even after a sequel or two. The Lone Ranger starts with "god mode" turned on.
William Fichtner plays the main villain, and he's one of my favorite scenery chewing actors. He was the best thing about Drive Angry and was I was able to enjoy that. He does his usual great work, but he was underutilized. None of the cast really has all that much to do. Ruth Wilson, who I loved on Luther, seems to just be in the film to scream a few times and doesn't have much of a character beyond that. Despite what you see in trailers, Helena Bonham Carter is barely in the film, so if you're expecting something from her, then you're going to be disappointed. Tom Wilkinson is wasted as well. Barry Pepper and James Badge Dale round out the supporting cast, but they don't have much going on either.
Before I finish up, I have to mention how hard it was not to type "The Long Ranger" instead of "The Lone Ranger". I wonder why that is? "The Long Ranger" sounds like a porn. I'm sure when the Adult Film community gets around to their version they'll call it that. If so, I want a cut, or at least a free copy.
I don't think The Lone Ranger is necessarily as bad as I've heard going in, but it's definitely a difficult movie to recommend. I didn't come out of it absolutely hating it or thinking it was a total waste of time, but it's something I'll never watch again. There are some entertaining action scenes and Johnny Depp has a few good moments, but it's way too long, and the story and tone are all over the place. There's just not much to enjoy otherwise. Depending on your view, it's not even suitable for the family. It's a movie nobody was asking for and is just a ho-hum, forgettable summer film. It's a rental.
2 (out of 5) Death Stars