We watched the Lone Ranger (2013) with johnny Depp and Armie Hammer this evening, and I’m sort of stunned that Disney could do such a bad job with such an iconic story.
The story is told in flashback by an aged tonto who appears to have been stuck in a museum case since the late 1800s, cluing us into the supernatural elements of the film. See, the Lone Ranger concept made so little sense to the producers that they had to explain it away with mysticism and sarcastic humor. Johnny Dep had best hope that there’s no truth in the notion of Tonto’s endurance, because if there is, then Jay Silverheels is bound to show up and whack him.
Perhaps I shouldn’t be surprised. Disney botched John Carter of Mars pretty badly as well. And then there’s the hyper-train wreck they made of (despite the fact I enjoyed it) Tomorrowland. Still, the only other property I can remember handled this badly was Starship Troopers, and I’m pretty sure that both films suffered from the same issue, that being the studio’s unwillingness to stand behind what they were certain modern audiences would see as naive and outmoded values.
It’s much easier to be an anti-hero than a good guy.
Not that I’m immune to the whole bad is good meme. The inevitable white hat really did look weird in the middle of all that dust and grit, and pretty much everyone else got to wear a stylish black one.
Besides making fun of Tonto’s integrity and the Lone Ranger’s honor, which they really went out of the way to do, they failed on the most important aspect of the movie. The score.
Yes, we got a few seconds of the William Tell Overture here and there, but never enough, and at times a bit tongue in cheek. What was weird, though in perfect keeping with the director’s sensibilities, was the obvious melodic references to The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly‘s score.
I’m a big fan of Ennio Morricone’s score for TGTB&TU, In fact, I think it’s one of the top ten sound tracks of all time, but the whole vibe was totally wrong for the Lone Ranger.
Although the producers felt it was fair game to mock the original’s naivete, it was painful to watch our hero pull a gun on the badguys time and time again and refuse to shoot anyone, which would have saved a whole lot of trouble later on, but made him look pathetic. Of course, they made it clear that he wasn’t actually a skilled shootist, but that Native American spiritualism was guiding his hand.
I know critics said it all two years ago, but I didn’t want to believe it was as bad as they said.
Clayton Moore, the original Lone Ranger, and his faithful sidekick Tonto (Jay Silverheels) were the archetype for any number of dynamic duos, most notably Kirk and Spock, but also Napoleon Solo and Ilya Kuryakin, who get their own movie this summer. It’s deeply ironic that Armie Hammer, who played the charismatic hero here, will be playing the Tonto role as Ilya Kuryakin in that movie. Fortunately, I think the director (Guy RItchie) get’s The Man From U.N.C.L.E a lot more than Gore Verbinski did.
Many have taken exception to Tonto’s second banana status and portrayal of a Native American, but there was never any doubt in my mind as to who the brains of the outfit were, or which of the two deserved more respect, which is not to say the the man in the mask didn’t deserve a heaping helping, because he did this film.
It’s unfortunate that Disney couldn’t show either the original actors or the story itself, some of that respect.