I expected this movie to be terrible – beyond terrible. The Rotten Tomatoes scores were abysmal, and the trailers were pretty bland. But it was a hot summer night, and I was out with friends – so, why not give it a shot? After all, there’s some perverse enjoyment that can be obtained from ripping apart bad movies.
It’s not a great movie – not by any means – but it’s also not that bad.
The plot is linear, generic, and almost exactly what you’d expect from a big-budget Lone Ranger reboot helmed by Gore Verbinski (director of the first three “Pirates of the Caribbean” films). East Coast lawyer John Reid (Armie Hammer), after witnessing the death of his lawman brother at the hands of evil Butch Cavendish, joins forces with enigmatic Native American Tonto (Johnny Depp) and becomes a masked hero himself. Cue lots of train chases, explosions, and zany adventure.
It’s worth mentioning that some of the action scenes are pretty great, including an epic final showdown backed by the galloping strains of Rossini’s William Tell Overture. More than once, moments of real cinematic exuberance shine through an otherwise muddy storyline, lifting “The Lone Ranger” above its tonally bleaker competitors.
The acting is also surprisingly strong. Johnny Depp’s Tonto is played well, though never approaching the heights of Jack Sparrow. Armie Hammer makes a great Lone Ranger – unlike Henry Cavill’s Superman, Hammer actually seems to be enjoying himself, and that enthusiasm does a lot to propel the film forward. No one’s going to be nominated for any Oscars (and things never reach the gleeful, over-the-top bonkers-ness of “Fast and Furious 6”), but “The Lone Ranger” is plenty watchable.
One disappointing element of the movie is its vaguely Luddite approach to history. The relationship of Western industrialists to the local Comanche community relies on un-subtle leftist cliches: of course the military-industrial complex is universally corrupt and evil. Pitting the Lone Ranger and Tonto against a force of merciless outlaws would’ve made for fine cinema in its own right – there’s no need to insert heavy-handed sociopolitical commentary. (That’s not to say that this isn’t an important conversation to have – the relationship of American “agents of progress” to Native American populations was certainly characterized by a horrific degree of exploitation and abuse. However, it cheapens the weight of that theme to shoehorn it into a throwaway summer blockbuster.) Along those lines, the movie is also probably too dark for what it tries to accomplish (was it really necessary to make Butch Cavendish a cannibal?) but it’s not really much worse than the “Pirates” films.
As far as crazy, switch-your-brain-off-at-the-door summer blockbusters go, one could do much worse than “The Lone Ranger.” It doesn’t take itself too seriously (a flaw that wrecked both the “Pirates of the Caribbean” sequels and “Man of Steel”), and it ends up actually being pretty fun. There’s enough kinetic action, callbacks to classic Lone Ranger tropes, and offbeat humor to keep the film from sinking under its massive (2.5 hr) runtime.
Forgettable? Sure. Formulaic? You bet. Entertaining? Yep.
Normalized Score: 2.4