Sunday, 18 August 2013

Film Review: The Lone Ranger (2013)

Director: Gore Verbinski
Screenplay: Justin Haythe, Ted Elliott and Terry Rossio
Stars: Johnny Depp, Armie Hammer and William Fichtner

The Lone Ranger has so many problems that a review such as this could never attempt to cover them all in depth. In the years to come someone will write a book on the production of this film, maybe paired with last year’s John Carter as the blueprints for a failed attempt to manufacture a monster hit.

The problem with this production lies in the lack of care and love for its source material and in turn the sole purpose became just another careless bloated, expensive summer film hoping for a frontloaded opening weekend and taking enough money to greenlight a sequel or two. At no point does this film ever try to be anything other than ‘Pirates of the Caribbean Go West’ which makes the whole production stink of greed and money, rather than ambition and imagination.

Who can blame Disney and Jerry Bruckheimer for thinking they could get away with a cookie-cutter model to build on the success star Johnny Depp and director Gore Verbinski brought them to the tune of $3.7 billion from the Pirates series? It comes as a surprise, albeit a welcome one, that this film was met with such a cold reception in the US, because quality is so rarely a sign of financial success and this film had all the right boxes ticked off to be a massive hit. The fact that it has significantly underperformed at the boxoffice doesn’t change anything in the immediate future but might, if we all cross our finger and toes and pray to whatever God you believe in, make studios think twice about pumping out such misguided trash as this. At least we won’t see a Lone Ranger 2, and for that we should all be grateful.

The intentions behind a $250 million budget version of The Lone Ranger, or any westerns for that matter, are fundamentally flawed before the camera begins to role. A Western has not needed, does not need, and will never need such a massive budget because the themes and motifs of the genre come from the characters; whether it’s ‘a man’s gotta do’ theme of heroism in High Noon or Shane, a revisionist take on American history in The Outlaw Josey Wales, McCabe and Mrs Miller, or The Wild Bunch, or just straight action with the recent 3:10 To Yuma remake, none of these stories need huge budgets and production costs and that is because they care about the genre and put character first. Moreover, the stunning effects you may see in a $250 million film is called ‘scenery’ in a western and costs nothing; someone should have told Bruckheimer.

That said, The Lone Ranger comes across as not a western, but a mockery of the genre and the source material and an insanely overlong one at that. The story is dull, lifeless and is at least an hour too long once all character motivation (for what it’s worth) is explained, and you can’t help but feel cheated by the time the climatic chase sequence begins which is, on its own merits, a very well crafted sequence; but the film has not earned the right to just throw in an action scene and the iconic William Tell overture is just another sign of the film makers not caring about their own product, as long as it all goes BANG at the end. Gore Verbinski certainly knows who to direct an action scene, however, and in a much better film this would have made for an outstanding finale rather than a case of too little and far, far too late.

A needless narrative framing device set at a wild west show, vampire rabbits (yes, you read that correctly), cannibalism, a CGI horse, and a prostitute with a gun in her wooden leg are all signs of a script derailing faster than the train at the end, but none of these are as painful as watching Johnny Depp given carte blanche as Tonto. Verbinski allows his leading man to go unleashed throughout the film and he causes more damage than a thousand CGI trains could ever do; Depp is not creating a character we can believe in but simply being quirky and throwing deadpan glances at the audience in the hope it’ll be enough to win them over. Moreover, as the leading star who secured the film its budget, he is used as the main character over The Lone Ranger who is boring, bumbling, flat, and never heroic until the inexplicable change of character in the final sequence. Depp is blessed with it all; looks, charisma, and acting talent, but his choice of roles is now more of a marketing gimmick than the choices of a man looking to stretch himself.

Stop thinking for yourself verdict: The film is an unmitigated failure on a level rarely seen with the talent involved and is a waste of time, money, talent, and soils the memory of the original series even up until the final line. The only positive you could give it, aside from the well staged train sequences, is that it isn’t as bad as the last mega budget Western which reteamed the star and director from a runaway success; Wild Wild West. That’s not really something you want to put on the posters though, it is?

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