‘Not as awful as some people say it is’. It isn’t really a quote Disney can put on their posters, but they are welcome to use it. Though it has some serious weaknesses, The Lone Ranger does manage to work, just about. Everything in it cries out ‘hate me’, from its silly wisecracks, it’s bloated running time, its less than amazing performance from Johnny Depp. But I couldn’t help myself – it won me over. I went with it and I enjoyed myself. It’s a guilty pleasure, and a colossal one at that.
It’s a shame that the movie looks as if it will make a $150 million loss. It’s actually far more coherent than Disney and Gore Verbinski’s Pirates of the Caribbean sequels (which gathered in over a billion). At the press conference I attended shortly after the screening Jerry Bruckheimer commented on how he (and no doubt Disney) are now looking to the rest of the world to bring in the money. The disappointing opening of The Lone Ranger in the US means it may well become 2013’s answer to 2012’s John Carter – a film that was doomed to fail, and did fail to some extent, but still brought in some much hoped-for cash from the international market.
The best parts of The Lone Ranger are the beginning and end. The opening set-piece involves a runaway train. The closing set-piece involves a runaway train. All the stuff in the middle is watchable if not exactly spectacular.
Armie Hammer, playing the ranger who turns rogue so as to track down the killers responsible for his brother’s death, is the backbone of the movie. Many would have thought Depp would prop the film up with a characteristically weird performance. But, surprisingly, Depp is a bit unremarkable in his role as the wandering Native American outcast who befriends our friendly if naive hero on his quest. Hammer, who was thrust into the public eye by David Fincher’s The Social Network and later Clint Eastwood’s J. Edgar, is magnificently entertaining. His screen presence is terrific, his command of the script superb and he injects a jolt of sexual energy into his role without even removing his top. At the aforementioned press conference I asked him and Mr Depp about what physical training they went through before the film started. Apparently, instead of normal gym training, ‘cowboy training camp’ was required to get the leads in a fit state for their athletic roles. Well, it certainly worked.
Gore Verbinski, who, in my opinion, made one of the worst blockbusters of all time (Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End) here directs with flare and a great sense of fun. He also lets his inner cinephile run wild, throwing in bits from classic westerns, references to Buster Keaton pictures, and he and his composer Hans Zimmer do a great reworking of the William Tell Overture to accompany the final runaway train scene.
There are also some excellent turns from a cluster of talented British actors. Helena Bonham Carter (pictured left), though a little sidelined, turns in a typically strong supporting performance. Ruth Wilson, who played Jane Eyre so marvellously in the BBC’s 2006 adaptation, is our female lead and love interest, and what a fantastic cowgirl she is too. Tom Wilkinson crops up in a predictable, if well-acted, he’s-to-nice-to-be-good role, and young actor Harry Treadaway has a jolly good time as a maniacal, scary outlaw.
If only the film could have gone through a good edit before a camera had even been turned on. Bruckheimer and co should have gone through with a big red biro, cutting out scenes. There is some much needless material in this movie, and I couldn’t help feeling that a leaner, tighter story would have been both more accessible and kinder on the brain.
All in all, this is not a disaster (artistically speaking). There’s a lot to enjoy, a lot to admire, and, at the same time, a lot to get frustrated about. Still, if the world was hoping for an all-out-fail, they are going to be disappointed. There’s too much going on in this film to make it flat-out bad. It’s a puzzling creation, but I had a nice time whilst being puzzled.
The Lone Ranger (2013), directed by Gore Verbinski, is released in cinemas in the UK on August 9 by Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures, Certificate 12A. Watch the trailer below: