“There’s a summer movie I want us to all see,” Lea said.
This is an event, because something that appeals to all of us is rare. “What is it?” I said.
“The Lone Ranger,” she replied.
“Great! I saw the trailer and thought it looked awesome.”
So we commenced waiting the three weeks or so I always wait to avoid opening crowds, and the bad reviews started piling up. It’s a boondoggle. It’s needlessly complex. It’s bloated. I don’t know that I’ve read a good one anywhere.
Stay with me for another few minutes and you will have read a good one.
Westerns have never been a go-to genre for me, but I enjoyed The Lone Ranger growing up. It was put together well. It felt like a complete show that happened to appeal to children, as opposed to a children’s show.
This film is rather more ambitious than the 60-year-old TV show, of course. It wants to reboot a fondly-remembered franchise, but it also wants to infuse it with summer action-comedy blockbusterliciousness, with snappy dialogue and effects scenes that were both unimaginable in the ’50s.
That should be a “more than it can chew” kind of setup, and mostly, it isn’t. The movie works.
The chemistry between Armie Hammer and Johnny Depp is generally excellent. I wondered how an under-billed title character would do with someone of Depp’s caliber, just as I wondered about Nicholson and Michael Keaton in the same arrangement in Batman. There was nothing to worry about here. Hammer did a good job with an earnest portrayal, moving from borderline naïveté to an eventual purposeful confidence convincingly. Depp, who can’t not excel, didn’t get the better of him enough to register in the end.
William Fichtner’s Butch Cavendish is an outstanding villain. He’s a bit grisly for young children, though, and I think is most of the reason this comes in at PG-13 and not PG. Heed the rating. It earns it. This is not a movie for five-year-olds.
I feared a too-much plot, which is settling in as customary these days. I didn’t get one of those either. There’s a compelling narrative, boosted by excellent production, that (surprise!) uses its 2:29 running time effectively. If you know anything about my movie tastes, you know that I tighten the screws hard on a movie that thinks it needs more than two hours to give me its payload. Go as long as you want, but you better have a good reason for it.
I sit here and tell you today that at two hours and twenty-nine minutes, The Lone Ranger is not too long.
The action is well-done all the way through. It’s a CGI-fest, of course, and there are a couple of visual orgasms. But it’s never shoveled at you so relentlessly that it feels gratuitous. I won’t say too much more about the climax because I try not to do spoilers, but there is an admirable bit of restraint that leads to a fabulous payoff in the final half-hour of the movie.
I will pick two nits, and they are nits in that they do not damage the presentation of the movie significantly. The more minor of the two is that there is a bit of the supernatural that feels unnecessary. It’s not clock-you-in-the-melon like 300, but it’s just a place the movie didn’t need to go to be effective.
The one that bothered me a bit more is that I think the early relationship between The Lone Ranger and Tonto was a bit heavy-handed in its depiction of the former as a bumbling hayseed and the latter as a pillar of wisdom. A lot of the time it worked, but some of the time it didn’t. A bit more restraint would have made it better.
I understand that Disney has badly miscalculated the expected demographic of this movie’s attendees, and that they’re skewing much older than they projected. I did see two couples in their 70s. I hope there was enough nostalgia for them to enjoy it.
It’s long, loud, and just a bit gory. It’s also a classic summer movie experience, and I’m delighted that we took the chance and went. I tell you with no irony or winking: if you’ve seen the trailer and you think you’ll like it, you will.
There is a lot of negative quack-quack-quacking going on in American reviews of this film, and it seems to amount to “yeah, this is bad. Look. Everyone knows it’s bad. So it’s bad.”
It’s not. It’s good. We’ll own it on Blu-ray. We’re pulling for it so that there will be sequels.