** 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?