Sunday, July 14, 2013

The Lone Ranger

** out of ****

There was a point the new film of Disney’s acquired property, The Lone Ranger, when I was having some nostalgic fun. The obligatory William Tell Overture was playing, as the heroes rode their horses galloping along the side of a train, high-jacked by the villain with a damsel in distress. The action was predictable but the fun tone was just right. I can say that I enjoyed this part of the movie. Unfortunately, it took two-hours and fifteen-minutes to reach it.

The running time of this movie was hardly a surprise. I recall when the At the Movies review of the first Pirates of the Caribbean movie featured Roger Ebert congratulating the film for being surprisingly well-made featuring a great performance from Johnny Depp. However, he and Richard Roeper criticized the unnecessarily long run-time for a “silly pirate movie.” A decade later, the very same studio, producer, writers, director and star, bring us a silly “Lone Ranger” movie that makes the same mistake, plus many more.

A long movie isn’t a bad thing if it has the power to stay engaging. Director, Gore Verbinski may have a talent for beautiful composition in his imagery and a tendency to pay homage to the great films that inspire him, but his movies tend to feel impersonal. His animated movie Rango is the best one I have seen because it exists comfortably in an almost surreal cartoon environment.

This director along with producer Jerry Bruckheimer, screenwriters Terry Rossio, Ted Elliot, and Justin Haythe… and I suppose executive producer/star Johnny Depp have stuffed this two-hundred-million dollar movie to the point of indigestion. Like the Pirates sequels, it confuses convolution for depth.

I’ve also had a suspicion for a while now, of tactics used by directors like Verbinski who may be throwing in references and in-joke allusions to other movies, with the belief it will render the film critic-proof due to all the chuckles it will inspire from us movie nerds. If we’re reminded of good movies, maybe we’ll start to think this is one too.

The story of a law-enforcer-turned-maverick, with the help of a Native-American outcast, has a needless amount of story elements and characters that don’t amount to much. Then it is pathetically framed with an extra narrative layer borrowing from Little Big Man by showing Johnny Depp in heavy old-man makeup telling the “real story” to a young Lone Ranger fan. Why? To show off more of Depp’s energetic, yet disappointing performance as Tonto, which consists of comically intense stares and manic random behavior. This is Depp abusing every acting trait for which he has learned to depend.

As for the title character, I just got a banal vibe from a rather handsome actor who looks the part but needed more direction and Depp was no help in provoking any interesting chemistry between the two. I loved Armie Hammer as the Winklevoss twins in The Social Network. It would be nice to see him in a project with that kind of quality again but it hasn’t happened yet.

There’s also the issue of too many thematic elements which bounce back and forth from B-movie escapism to bitter American expansionist history and Native American genocide. The result is like seeing a concentration camp in an Indiana Jones movie.

This is a mostly lifeless confused movie with some great production and a few entertaining parts. It still seems like a waste of money for Disney and its audience. Again, what was so wrong with John Carter?

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