I am young. Hardly anyone in my generation has heard of, or much less seen, the genre-defining television series or heard recordings of the radio program that thrilled the early 20th century. That’s why the major differences between the original characters and the 2013 ones won’t affect anyone under the age of forty… except for those of us who are familiar with it of course, in which case we’re just as disappointed with it as our parents are. This franchise hadn’t been touched in over 32 years… and it should have stayed that way.
The Lone Ranger illustrates the origins and early quests of The Masked Man (Armie Hammer). After he becomes a Texas Ranger and witnesses the death of his brother, Dan (James Badge Dale), he is the only ranger left to defend the Wild West from a huge conspiracy aided by Butch Cavendish (William Fichtner). The Ranger is nursed back to health by a lonely American Indian named Tonto (Johnny Depp). The two join forces with the Ranger’s trusty steed, Silver, aiming to bring down the conspiracy and hail justice upon those who killed the Ranger’s brother. This is all set before a backdrop of romance between John Reid and his departed brother’s widow, Rebecca (Ruth Wilson).
So what have we lost in this adaptation? Oh, simply everything that made The Lone Ranger what it is. I don’t mean that it wasn’t black and white. I don’t mean that this one had a ton of visual effects – I welcome modern enhancements to old franchises, I mean let’s move ahead with the future; the problem was the story. Armie Hammer’s Ranger was pretty much just a guy on a horse with a mask, kind of in-human actually, but I don’t think it was Hammer’s fault. The dialogue that came out of his mouth made it seem like they were trying to make him seem as unlike the original John Reid as they could. This was also emphasized by Johnny Depp’s Tonto. Oh, Tonto! Don’t get me wrong, I love Johnny Depp, and he did some fine acting, but this Tonto is so strange. Suddenly Tonto is a piece of comedy rather than the trusty partner we remember from the TV series. The worst part was, Tonto made this film. He was really the only thing that could make a scene enjoyable… and it wasn’t the Tonto we know and love. Instead, this guy was more like Tonto’s weird cousin who wears a dead bird on his head.
The opening scene was fast-paced and exciting, not really nostalgic of The Lone Ranger, but entertaining nonetheless. I was watching it and thinking ‘Oh, so it’s like this… this won’t be too bad. It’s Pirates of the Caribbean, but… with cowboys… in the Wild West.’ Then we have John Reid’s origin, the set-up, blah, blah, blah, alright. That’s when the story takes a turn downhill. Brothels, guns, trains, oh my! We have a dull and entertaining action/adventure flick told all through flashbacks of old-man Tonto in a traveling road show (which was quite an unnecessary plot device). The final scene is the only part of the film that is reminiscent of The Lone Ranger television series, as William Tell Overture plays for twenty or so minutes as the Ranger, Tonto, and Silver run around on top of trains and whatnot. Not to mention, throughout most of the movie, the fact that all of the above are still alive is astounding… and completely unrealistic.
Let’s all just agree that Gore Verbinski gave it a nice shot, but he sadly failed. The original screenplay contained werewolves and now that I see they weren’t going for relevance to the original series anyway, I can’t help but wonder if that would have helped keep it entertaining throughout rather than just in the final couple of scenes. Well, that’s $250 million down the drain, although with marketing like Disney’s and young fans astounded by the horse and funny Indian, I’m sure it’ll clean up by time it’s through at the box office. Please, I’m begging Hollywood… never touch The Lone Ranger with your gross feature film fingers again.
George W. Trendle, Jay Silverheels and Clayton Moore all just rolled over in their graves, Ke-mo sah-bee.