The Lone Ranger had been something of a curiosity for me, having never grown up with repeats of the television series and only being aware of the disapproval and criticism of the reimagining of Tonto by fans in the build-up to the film’s release. I was interested to see how it would come across as someone watching with little prior knowledge or expectations.
The film starts out with a young boy in a white hat and black mask visiting the Wild West attraction at a carnival. He meets an aged Comanche Indian who reveals himself as Tonto and serves as the narrator, telling us the origins of The Lone Ranger in the form of flashbacks. The real story takes place in Colby, Texas in 1869 during the early stages of the railroad industry where it’s not long before we’re introduced to our main characters.
There’s Latham Cole, the railroad Tycoon who is planning on celebrating the launch of the latest leg of the Transcontinental Railroad by transporting notorious criminal Butch Cavendish to be publicly hung for his crimes. On the train carrying Cavendish we also have a much younger looking Tonto, who is chained up in the carriage beside him, and John Reid, a lawyer returning home to see his brother Dan, the Texas Ranger that captured Cavendish.
Before the train reaches it’s destination it’s intercepted and hijacked by Cavendish’s gang and the first big action sequence occurs with Cavendish escaping and Tonto and John meeting for the first time through their shared goal of stopping him, even though Tonto’s aim is to kill him while John wants to make sure he’s brought to justice before the law. Throughout the rest of the film we’re shown the awkward three way relationship between John, Dan and Dan’s wife, John’s transition from lawyer to deputised Ranger to The Lone Ranger and his unlikely partnership with Tonto in trying to capture Cavendish.
By the final third all character backstories and connections have been revealed and the audience is treated to an action packed and (literally) explosive finale. With a runtime of almost two and half hours the finale almost seems like a reward for surviving through the rest.It’s hardly surprising that the film goes on for a while as “Westerns” and “long” seem to be two things that go hand in hand. In most classic Westerns though the scenes are intentionally drawn out to build up suspense and provide more satisfaction when the action occurs.
That’s not to say that The Lone Ranger isn’t satisfying at times and you can certainly see director Gore Verbinski’s love for the genre with little nods towards classic films such as Once Upon a Time in the West. There are scenes that could have been cut to improve the pacing though, in fact, entire characters such as Helena Bonham Carter’s madam seem to serve no real purpose to the overall plot at all.
As for the other characters, Armie Hammer is likeable as the idealistic John Reid and the unwilling hero The Lone Ranger while William Fichtner as Cavendish perfectly portrays the role of a truly evil villain in both looks and actions. Johnny Depp performs exactly as you’d expect as Tonto although his comic relief moments are easily upstaged by Silver the horse and it’s hit and miss at times on how convincing he is as an Comanche Indian, despite being the plastered in makeup the whole time.
The musical score for the film is provided by Hans Zimmer with the William Tell Overture being teased at partway through before finally giving the audience what they’ve really been waiting to hear during the finale. There is also some terrific backdrops and scenery used throughout. The general “feel” of the film will be very familiar to fans of Pirates of the Caribbean which should come as no surprise given that it’s been made using the same Verbinski, Bruckheimer and Depp combination.
With its mix of action, heroics, comedy and supernatural elements, The Lone Ranger does for Westerns what Pirates did for swashbucklers. In summary, The Lone Ranger is enjoyable enough even if it does outstay it’s welcome in terms of running time. It’s also rated as 12A but parents should be wary that there is some heavily implied violence throughout even if it’s not graphically shown, such as a scene where Cavendish cuts out and eats another character’s heart. Having read up on the original radio show and TV series it’s obvious that, despite the controversial update of Tonto, a lot of love has been shown towards the source material with everything from the silver bullets, catchphrase and theme tune to a modern update of the “Who was that masked man?” line being used and the opening scene being set in 1933 (which is when the radio show was first broadcast) so fans of the originals shouldn’t be too disappointed either.
The Lone Ranger is now playing at the Grosvenor Cinema. To book your tickets click here.