The Lone Ranger  (2013)    55/100

Rating :   55/100                                                                     149 Min        12A

The team (producers Disney and Jerry Bruckheimer, director Gore Verbinksi, and lead actor Johhny Depp) that brought ‘The Pirates of the Caribbean’ to astounding commercial success, reunite for the first big screen outing in a generation of one of televisions most loved and iconic characters, but this time around they are without the charms of Keira Knightley. The result? A disaster, portended to cost producers Disney a monetary cascade of millions. Well, I think we can safely say where the real talent lay on Pirates ….

It’s an odd undertaking to say the least. I’ve never seen a single episode of ‘The Lone Ranger’, nor am I even familiar with basic character motivations, other than the eponymous central character being the masked vigilante of the western genre (it is perhaps the continuing rise of the superhero film that originally inspired interest in this endeavour) and his accompaniment by his equally renowned Indian sidekick Tonto. In fact, I’m probably more familiar with The Milky Bar kid, who was doubtless based on him, so I had no real preconceptions going in, and yet it is abundantly clear where they got this one wrong.

In the first instance the filmmakers have made the cardinal sin of forgetting who their target audience were – in this case families, whilst trying to appeal to a much wider adult audience at the same time, much like Pirates did. But young children should absolutely not be taken to see this film. The first two thirds are a fairly gritty, dark western, with especially brutal murder and executions and the central characters visiting a brothel à la the continuation of adult themes (they do not themselves partake, at least). A family friendly western like ‘Maverick’ (94), also a TV adaptation, is a good example of how to get the balance right, but that is not to say this part of the film is bad, far from it, there are a lot of nice touches – especially with regards to the cinematography and the atmosphere (it was shot on location in New Mexico, Utah and Colorado, although I suspect a grainy colour scheme may have been applied to a lot of it in post production, which, if accurate, was entirely unnecessary).

Additionally, Johnny Depp as Tonto is fantastic – going into the screening my biggest concerns were about his portrayal, as it looked in the trailers just like the basic replication of the previous formula and his Jack Sparrow character, but I was impressed throughout by the originality he brought to Tonto, whilst still remaining the playful Depp we are familiar with. Then, however, the final third of the film is delivered as what we expected the whole thing to be, farcical and light hearted, over the top action sequences and Disney gooeyness whilst the William Tell overture plays, which ironically completely destroys the decent western that had been built up so far. Deepening the film’s woes, they annihilate the characters at the same time – up until this point The Lone Ranger has steadfastly refused to kill anyone, instead demanding on principal that he will bring them to justice. In the final third he pretty much gives up on that idea by trying to shoot someone, but he can’t as he is out of ammo, and the silly chase sequences continue. What on Earth? Your central character either stands for something, or he doesn’t, you can’t just casually throw away the core concept of his very being, but at the same time fudge it so he doesn’t actually kill anybody. It’s outrageously pathetic (see the {very well researched, if I do say so myself} Tintin review for more very similar casual character destruction).

Armie Hammer plays the ranger himself, and he is ok in the role, but is a far cry from being inspiring, and it is very clear that Tonto is the more central character, was it the same in the series? I very much doubt it. Indeed, Tonto is billed first in the credits, though he does appear onscreen first too as the film opens with the Indian as an old man, looking like a sun wizened version of Alice Cooper, approached by a young child who will get his life story in exchange for some peanuts – and why in the name of heaven is the blooming child crunching away at the peanuts?! It’s incredibly annoying! Bad enough with every second row featuring some fat bastard with half a truck full of popcorn, grrrrrr!

The camaraderie between ranger and Indian works to some degree, and the supporting acting is fine from the likes of Ruth Wilson, Helena Bonham Carter, Tom Wilkinson, William Fichtner and Barry Pepper. If you stay through the end credits, they last a really long time and whilst they are playing we can see in the background Tonto as an old man again, walking torturously slowly, and yet as fast as he’s able, into the western landscape. It’s incredibly sad, and unlike anything you’re likely to have seen before. It sums up the entire film, a legitimate artistic touch, and yet one completely wrong for this film (the whole movie is also bloody long for families to sit through).

I couldn’t resist this – ‘Hi Ho Silver’ from Scottish singer/songwriter Jim Diamond and written in memory of his father (also used as the theme tune for ‘Boon’)

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