film review: The Lone Ranger (2013)

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film review: The Lone Ranger (2013)

Forget everything you’ve heard about Disney’s The Lone Ranger. Many a film has been ruined by high expectations but even more decent films have been ruined by bad press.

If US reviews are to be believed, The Lone Ranger is a unmitigated disaster. A folly of epic proportions. A travesty of cinema. These reviews could be further from the truth, but they’re far away enough to make them incredibly unfair.

The truth is, The Lone Ranger ain’t that bad. It’s not brilliant. It’s about 45 mins too long for a start. Ordinarily I would say that if a film is 45 mins too long, then that’s too much time to waste, but there’s something compelling about this film. Despite the fact that it was bloated and encumbered by the weight of its own self importance, it’s also quite fun. And even though it’s over 2.5 hours, it mostly zips along. It’s just a shame that so much of the plot is unnecessary.

But it is that… extra plot… that makes it interesting. The Lone Ranger is a grand endeavour. They attempt to deal with the themes of Greed, Guilt, Pride and Honour by sweeping through a variety of topics including the effect of the Industrial Revolution, the birth of the Transcontinental railroad, the massacre of Native Americans, the trouble with justice in the Wild West, the concept of the prodigal son, a (sort of) love triangle, the exploitation of natural resources, the idea of balance in nature and of course… the genesis of The Lone Ranger.

No wonder they needed 2.5 hours. I just wish they’d, you know, left some of it out.

All of this is book-ended and interrupted by a completely unnecessary framing story starring Johnny Depp. I can only assume that they felt that a film with more screen time for Johnny Depp was bound to do better than a film with less.

Yet in this madness, they actually do manage to deal with the grand themes. I can’t point to a part of the film (aside from the framing story) which didn’t add something to the viewing. There are so many things going on, you can’t help but want to know what happens next.

There’s also an odd truth to the film. The Lone Ranger is not some kind of superhero, despite Tonto’s proclamation that he cannot be killed in battle. He doesn’t step up and save the day every time. A lot of people die in The Lone Ranger. A lot. Admittedly mostly bloodlessly, but way more often than you’d think would happen in a 12A movie. I like that it’s not all warm and fuzzy. It’s not what you expect from a summer blockbuster.

Presumably this is one of the reasons why it hasn’t turned out to be a blockbuster. I get the feeling, from a look at the US reviews, that people want their blockbusters short and simple. Now I’m not saying that The Lone Ranger couldn’t have done with being short-er and simple-r but I also think we’re better off that the film isn’t just another Spider-Man or Superman – we don’t need another po-faced superhero who’s out to save the world. Sometimes, it’s ok to go mad. Sometimes, it’s nice to careen off the rails.

Which this film literally does. A couple of times. To spectacular effect.

Still, I feel a little sorry for Armie Hammer. He may be the titular star, but this movie could hardly be less about him. He’s the catalyst which propels the story, but you’re kind of left feeling that he wandered into the film after the plot had already been written. In a film called The Lone Ranger, the Lone Ranger feels retro-fitted. He’s a little too upstanding for the kind of Western that the The Lone Ranger is, Hammer is too all-American to fit in this world. It’s a shame because I’d like Hammer to be a proper leading man, he’s a good actor, he’s likeable, he’s funny… but between this and J. Edgar, he might not get another chance to break.

The best way to take The Lone Ranger is probably with a pinch of salt. Don’t head in expecting your standard superhero origin story – think of it more like a frenetic lesson in US history from a hyperactive history buff. Not something that you’d necessarily want to see, but something that might just be more entertaining than you think.

Oh, and it’s a lot better than Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End.

Just wanted to put that out there.


6.5/10

1 Comment

  1. comment-avatar
    Dan O.August 23, 2013 - 5:37 am

    Long, dull and boring to the point of no return. Unforgivable really. Good review Nicola.

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