Well, this is a nice surprise… although I really should have been more excited for Disney’s The Lone Ranger for a number of reasons. Firstly, it’s a film by Gore Verbinski – the director of the first three Pirates of the Caribbean movies. If you don’t know, the Pirates movies are among my all-time favourites. I love their escapist fantasy and sense of fun. It also helps that the action-adventure is one of my favourite genres. Again, with The Lone Ranger following suit, it seems like the movie should have been something well within my radar.
Moreover, when you add the fact that Johnny Depp is in a lead role and my favourite composer Hans Zimmer is also aboard to score the film, it’s a shock that I wasn’t pumped for The Lone Ranger. The reason is actually very simple – it’s a western. I’m not a fan of westerns; they all feel the same to me and so I’ve never been able to get into them. Colour me stunned then that 2013 has seen the release of two movies that are now my favourites of the genre: Django Unchained and – fortunately – The Lone Ranger.
Verbinski clearly draws on his experience making the Pirates movies and Rango, his previous film which was an animated western (which won the Oscar for Best Animated Feature). His history with Disney, Depp and producer Jerry Bruckheimer serves him well, since he’s managed to create a lengthy but well-paced adventure that’s both fresh and familiar. It helps that Verbinski is a visual director, balancing special effects with practical workmanship as well as a slightly darker and more mature look than other blockbusters are prepared to risk. He’s not afraid to show blood for example, but doesn’t push the envelope too far so that it’s not suitable for older kids.
The Lone Ranger is therefore akin to Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl – western edition. It eschews fantasy elements for a story that’s more grounded and realistic rather than rooted in the supernatural, but keeps the creative setpieces and imagery that set the Pirates movies apart. Based on the classic serial of the same name, The Lone Ranger has Depp playing Tonto, the Native American sidekick of the titular character. Tonto recounts the origin of his partnership with John Reid (Armie Hammer; The Social Network), a lawyer and Texas Ranger who becomes the masked vigilante known as the Lone Ranger.
Depp’s Tonto isn’t merely Jack Sparrow reskinned – they’re similar insofar as they’re both eccentrics portrayed by Depp who wear a bandanna. These aside, Tonto and Sparrow have few traits in common. It helps here that Depp has great chemistry with Hammer, who plays a lucky everyman with a strong moral compass. Throw in a compelling villain in outlaw Butch Cavendish as portrayed by the almost unrecognisable William Fichtner (Armageddon), and you have a well-rounded cast that keeps the momentum moving forward while balancing the drama and laughs. Oh, and how could I forget Silver!? The Lone Ranger’s famous steed is a character all his own, and absolutely owns a lot of the movie’s funniest moments.
Featuring lavish production design that doesn’t bombard the senses with unnecessary effects, The Lone Ranger is a delight to behold. To be fair, I wasn’t enamoured with the entire journey. It’s well made but my aversion to westerns was getting the best of me; I kept thinking ‘this is great but I wish it was a Pirates movie’. But then the final act happened. Without exaggerating, the final act of The Lone Ranger features one of the most exhilarating action sequences I’ve ever seen. It’s an inspired piece of filmmaking that represents a pinpoint marriage of visuals and film score – it must have been a nightmare to plan and execute!
I simply didn’t want it end and can’t remember the last time I experienced such a gleeful high. As a result, upon reflecting on The Lone Ranger as a whole my overall sentiments have favourably matured. This is a terrific action-adventure, one that may well be a new Indiana Jones or Pirates of the Caribbean for a new generation.
The team behind Pirates of the Caribbean recaptures magic with their update to the Lone Ranger.