When the sidekick of the main star of the film gets top billing, there is obviously something strange afoot. On top of that, to have someone who is somewhat of an unknown actor as the Lone Ranger is also pretty peculiar.
The movie starts out like a western with a building of the transcontinental railroad finally about to be connected. There’s a train roaring down the tracks carrying the movie’s baddie, Butch Cavendish, played by William Fichtner. It took a while to actually realize it was him under the gnarled, grimy makeup and devilish sneer.
He’s chained up next to none other than Johnny Depp’s Tonto, who, as revealed later in the film, has been chasing him for 25 years.
Then there’s John Reid aka The Lone Ranger, played by Armie Hammer, who’s a lawman of a different nature. He’s all about using law books instead of a gun and is kind of a pansy.
Well, Cavendish escapes, and the story is set in motion.
The actual origin of the Lone Ranger escapes me, but in the film he’s killed and brought back to life by a spirit horse who later becomes The Ranger’s trusty steed, Silver.
The movie is a comedy first and foremost. Depp carries the entire load of the film on his back, and any scene without him in it, of which there are few, seem to drag.
Depp’s portrayal of Tonto has angered many moviegoers and Native Americans alike as he seemingly plays him as a generic caricature of what we thought Indians were when we were kids.
But he’s funny and heroic, so we’re not supposed to notice.
Hammer’s portrayal of the Lone Ranger is a bumbling-fool-turned-hero archetype and just follows Depp’s lead.
It would have been interesting to see what George Clooney, who was originally cast as The Ranger, would have done with the character.
As the movie plays, no one really roots for the Lone Ranger. We just basically sit back and watch him save people and wait for Depp to return to the screen.
The film itself is pretty family friendly, minus all the killing and cannibalism. (That’s a joke by the way.) The death toll begins to rise as soon as the film starts and never stops. Sure, there’s no blood when people get shot, and that should make it ok, right?
But what about when Cavendish eats The Ranger’s brother’s heart?
Yes, it goes there.
Overall, the film’s a gorgeous western. We see Monument Valley in all it’s HD digital glory, which was an obvious nod to one of the best western directors of all time, John Ford.
All the cowboys, Indians, bandits and town folk are dirty and sunburnt as one would imagine it would be like at the time.
Then the computer effects kick in, and then you remember you’re watching a Hollywood blockbuster and the nostalgia of watching a western in theaters fades.
The entire movie has grit and grime, but there’s a veil of gloss over the whole thing that always reminds you that you’re not really in the Wild West.
Gore Verbinski does what he’s done with the first three “Pirates of Caribbean” films – but over the desert plains instead of the ocean. And he replaces a pirate ship with a train.
The movie is fun but drags on a little too long. As I mentioned before, it’s a comedy first, action film second, a western third and a drama a distant fourth.
In making a movie out of such an iconic hero as The Lone Ranger, one would think he deserves more than being a punch line in a two-and-a-half-hour film that bears his name.
Also, it sort of feels sad that, with all that money and gorgeous landscapes and gritty western look and feel, it just wasn’t just an awesome western.
The Lone Ranger is a fun jaunt for those of us who aren’t tired of Depp’s antics.
But for those who are already tired of his maniacal characters in makeup, the “The Lone Ranger” is better left alone.
“The Lone Ranger” is playing at Rio 6 Cinemas, 806 E. Houston St. in Beeville.
Paul Gonzales is the entertainment writer at the Bee-Picayune and can be reached at 358-2550, ext. 116, or at thescene@mySouTex.com.