…Well, as fond as I am of Johnny Depp and as fond as I am of the original Lone Ranger stories, the new Jerry Bruckheimer film has a few issues.
Let’s start at the very beginning, a very good place to start, when you read you begin with A – B – C, when you WRITE you begin with an opening that is going to hook the audience. However, that did not happen.
I don’t know… maybe it’s me, but I wasn’t keen on seeing an aged (decaying) Tonto (Johnny Depp) on display at a Wild West Historical Museum as the opening image to this epic tale. It was just weird. For the first 10 minutes of the film, I sat there thinking, “Oh great. This entire film is going to be a flashback!” Its predictability nearly lulled me to sleep. Even though the mummified Depp comes to life and “trades” a dead mouse for peanuts (which he proceeds to eat, shell and all) with a young boy dressed like the Lone Ranger, the opening image did not deliver.
I understand that action/adventure films are clearly their own genre, but when you take famous characters like the Lone Ranger and his side-kick Tonto, there needs to be something other than trains blowing up and disproportionate stunts to keep the plot moving forward. This re-invention of The Lone Ranger lacked depth for so many reasons. Even the acting genius of Depp couldn’t pull this story out of its dull state. Perhaps this is the reason for so many things blowing up. How many explosions does an audience need to see in a 2-hour period? Were the explosions making up for what was lacking in the story? Then there is the issue of the “perpetual” run-away train, which crashes and burns and then resurrects before the next scene!
Poor Tonto, he’s been rejected by his tribe for accidentally showing the “white man” where all the silver was when he was a little boy, in exchange for a pocket watch from Sears and Roebuck. I realize that reference was intended to be comedic, but it was just odd. Especially since Sears and Roebuck began as a mail order catalog in 1893, and didn’t actually become a physical store until 1925. The flashback takes us into 1833 (someone didn’t do their research). Since therapists and Paxil didn’t exist back in that day, Tonto just roams around with a dead raven on top of his head. He’s a “man departed,” and a “Wendigo Hunter,” which is code for a “nut job.”
The storyline was hard to follow – jumping from one thing after another, exhausting the audience along the way. I heard comments after the film ended like, “Wow, longest damn film I’ve been to in forever,” or “Finally. I didn’t think it would ever end.” That’s a probably not good sign when walking out of a theater. When the plot is not well written, and things jump around too much, it becomes hard to connect to the characters. For those of us who grew up watching the original television series, this was frustrating.
Originally, The Lone Ranger began as a weekly radio broadcast that spanned 21 years. The television series came later, and was on for 8 years. While we did not have extraordinary stunts and pyrotechnic oomph back in the day, we were drawn into the characters. This was not the case with Bruckheimer’s version. The characters were not properly developed – perhaps even confused from the start. They forgot that Tonto was not the lead character, but the Lone Ranger’s sidekick. In the new version, Tonto definitely gets top billing, and leaves the handsome masked ranger (Armie Hammer) riding on Silver through the tumbleweed of Texas (or rather Utah).
The plot is convoluted and the tone disastrous, which obviously led to the writers trying to connect the dots with forced humor and action over-kill.
The ending is equally as bad as the beginning. Suddenly, we’re back in the Museum. Tonto finished eating the peanuts, and continues to tell his story to the little boy dressed up as the masked ranger. No longer dressed like an Indian, Tonto is in a suit (perhaps an Armani). He puts on a bowler hat over his dead raven, and Tonto disappears from the museum window. In a flash the “dead” raven is resurrected, and flies out of the exhibit window toward the screen. As the credits roll, the styling lizard-skinned Tonto walks out into the Utah wilderness and he’s carrying a suitcase. I don’t remember ever being so confused by an ending in my life.