Thursday, July 11, 2013

The Lone Ranger movie review.

Summer is not kind to us all, kemosabe. Even amidst the spectacular summer thrills (Iron Man 3 and Star Trek, for example), there will always be those of considerably less quality to dampen things. Man of Steel can already attest to this. But for as many problems Man of Steel had, it has nothing on The Lone Ranger. Having been trapped in development limbo for years, the film saw a troubled production, specifically due to a constantly rising budget. It at least had the promise of being a fun little ride, having been directed by the great Gore Verbinski. Unfortunately, the film was a train wreck, not only bombing at the box office, but garnering much critical hatred as well. I ignored all the warning signs in hopes of some decent popcorn entertainment.
The Lone Ranger, of course, is based on an old character known from TV, film, and most notably the radio series. John Reid is the masked ranger that travels across the west with his friend, the Native-American Tonto, to capture criminals and bring them to justice. The source material has a devoted fan base, many of its tropes have become pop culture icons, as well as tying into the Green Hornet, as the Ranger was the Hornet’s great ancestor. You can see why a film adaptation would be difficult to pull off, but not impossible.

Anyway, the film sees John Reid (Armie Hammer), a lawyer recruited as a Texas Ranger, aiding his brother (Dan, played by James Badge Dale) to find vicious outlaw Butch Cavendish (William Fichtner) brought to justice. In an ambush, Dan is killed by Cavendish, and John is left for dead, only to be found later by Tonto (Johnny Depp) , a possibly deranged Native-American that John met on a train during the beginning of the film. The two set off to bring the criminal and his gang to justice, all the while the railroads are being constructed, full on war between the Commanches and the United States Cavalry begins, and “twists” to be felt in this movie are incredibly easy to see coming from miles away. It’s all too much…

Remember how I said I was hoping for some decent popcorn entertainment? I didn’t get that at all, first and foremost due to story. Penned by Ted Elliot, Terry Rossio (the duo responsible for the Pirates of the Caribbean films), and Justin Haythe (Revolutionary Road), the movie suffers from overly complicated subplots and a lack of proper character development. It’s definitely a case of too many cooks in the kitchen, particularly because the film struggles to find a consistent tone. Does it want to be serious? Does it want to be a comedy? Not that it can’t do both with the right tweaking, but the way that they awkwardly clash with each other is bothersome.

As an admirer of Gore Verbinski, it pains me to say his direction is poor. With Pirates of the Caribbean, it worked, because he was able to showcase great acting, solid storytelling, a grand scope with visual panache, and a series of superb action scenes that ensured the movie was never boring. With The Lone Ranger, it’s so misused that it feels as if it were a completely different person. The film has top notch visuals, of course, but his direction feels badly misguided, especially with a cast as talented as this wild bunch. The villains are one note, the side cast is dull, and even Johnny Depp and Armie Hammer fail to generate charm or chemistry.

Of course, the film could be considered a nice guilty pleasure if the action were up to par. This is not the case. For an “action” film such as this, it has a surprising lack of genuine thrills to be had. This is the kind of film to deliver on old-fashioned thrills that we crave, but the action here is clunky, shoddily edited, and doesn’t live up to all the waiting around this movie demands. Almost all of the action takes place within the first and last 35 minutes, resulting in an agonizing second act. This movie is too much talk, not enough thrills, and at two and a half hours, is badly in need of trimming and pacing revision. It all equates to an overall failure.

Whenever I think of the best revisionist tales, The Lone Ranger obviously trying to be a revisionist tale, one movie I immediately think of is Martin Campbell’s The Mask of Zorro. That film was what great popcorn entertainment should be, strengthened by superb acting with chemistry and charm to spare, solid storytelling, great character development, stunning visual flair, and slickly paced, intelligently staged action sequences that never overstay their welcome, and know just how much to give, and pull back, resulting in a film that is never boring. Another film with these same virtues would be the James Bond film Goldeneye, also directed by Martin Campbell. Both films had enough of a broad scope to tailor the characters for their modern times, but still stay true to the essence of what made their characters legends in the first place. This does not. I’m not saying it needed Martin Campbell to be good, but it just needed to be good. The Lone Ranger could work as an entertaining revision, but not the way it’s done here. It’s boring, it’s weak, and it’s lazy. There’s no passion and no spontaneity. It’s a phoned in mess!

Hi-ho, Silver, away… from this garbage!

*1/2 / *****

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