When the announcement was made that “The Lone Ranger” was making its way to the big screen, I was skeptical. Not in the sense of skeptical that I am every time a book I enjoyed is optioned for film, but in the sense that I had absolutely no idea what the fuss was about. I knew about the Ranger and Tonto, and Silver, as well as the theme song and that was the extent of my knowledge.
The movie follows the lines of the most popularly accepted origin story, where a group of lawmen set off to find Butch Cavendish(William Fichter) and bring him to justice. An ambush leads John Reid (Armie Hammer) to don the mask and set of with Tonto (Johnny Depp) to find Cavendish and avoid a war between the settlers and the Comanche Indians.
The movie is told from Tonto’s point of view, as he relates his adventures to a young boy dressed as the Ranger nearly forty years after the events themselves. Had this been employed at only the beginning and the end, then perhaps it would have worked. As it was, when the boy asks a question relating to events, we are brought back to the “present” and a heavily made up Depp as an elder Tonto, jarring us out of the sequence of events.
The mixture of tones presented is much like Verbinski and Depp’s previous venture, the “Pirates” films, in that it presents itself as serious, but not taking itself too seriously. Depp as comedic relief is a given, with smart remarks and facial expressions punctuating the major events.
Where Depp embraces the character as he always does, Armie Hammer seems to radiate aloofness, contributed to Reid’s uneasiness about his course of action. The pair has a quirky chemistry, as the two different characters work together despite their differences in temperament.
A regular in movies featuring Depp is Helena Bonham Carter. Known for her quirkier characters, here Bonham Carter plays the owner of a saloon with an ivory leg that also serves as a gun. The saloon, Red’s, is placed in a town that may remind one very much of Tortuga.
The pile of characters in on the major plot grows as the Captain of the Army and railroad man Latham Cole(Tom Wilkinson) are shown to be parts of the wheel working to bring the West to its knees. Their plot also serves to inspire the Lone Ranger in naming his horse Silver.
The largest complaint so far has been the length of the movie. At almost two and a half hours, it is rather long, with the middle of the movie full of railroad and mining plots that drag on, when the audience is waiting for the Lone Ranger to really make his grand appearance.
Two scenes that reinforce the PG-13 rating are a scene where the villain Butch Cavendish carves out a heart and the saloon scene with barely contained women. Nonetheless, “The Lone Ranger” may provide more mature entertainment for the Fourth of July weekend, facing off with “Despicable Me 2.”
By not taking itself too seriously and setting up a decent origin story to the Ranger, Tonto and Silver the horse, the movie is funny and fast in most places. This one gets an A from me just because it’s pure popcorn fun.