If The Lone Ranger accomplishes anything, it will be proving once and for all that the movie making method of putting Johnny Depp in a funny costume, getting him drunk, then preparing to sit back and print money is not a fool-proof business plan.
Depp’s trademark character acting has been one of diminishing returns over the last couple of years. 2012’s Dark Shadows (yet another poorly convinced remake of a hopelessly dated pop-culture phenomenon) was far from the success Warner Bros thought paying for Depp’s name would warrant. And while it did better overseas, the first blow to his A-list status had been made.
The Lone Ranger, as of this printing, is a certified box office bomb nowhere close to making back its $250 million budget. And where in other cases the foreign market would be stepping in to save the day, the American iconography of the Lone Ranger likely makes it difficult to sell overseas.
That’s not even the worst part of this flop – the racial controversy of Johnny Depp seemingly appropriating an entire culture and exploiting it to create another goofy character is uncomfortably similar to how the original character of Tonto was handled by the radio play and television show.
So with all this against it from the outset, it really does seem like Disney was hoping that grabbing Johnny Depp and the directing and writing team behind the massively successful Pirates Of The Caribbean franchise would be just the saving grace this movie needed.
But what made Pirates work was that no matter how dark it got at times, it still kept a semi-cohesive tone: light-hearted adventure with witty one-liners abound. None of that classic wit is present in this bloated movie, and while Johnny Depp has a few good lines, any likeability or charm this movie could have had gets lost thanks some truly awful pacing.
For those who long for a grittier, one-dimensional, macho Lone Ranger, they’re not going to like anything that tries to “reboot” an icon they can barely remember; even if it does make him a more “fleshed out” character.
In this adaptation, Armie Hammer’s Lone Ranger is a man who’s very much out of his depth in the beginning. Being an Eastern lawyer with an unwavering dedication to justice and the law, he’s out of place in the “lawless” Wild West of spitting, swearing, gun-toting men. But NO WHERE in the film is his character a coward. By all means, he embodies everything the Lone Ranger stands for: honor, decency and blind courage in the face of danger. He’s guilty of being a little naive for sure, and far from the effective, invincible Lone Ranger of the classics — to the film’s strength. A Ranger character-reboot makes for better drama overall, and a more engaging performance from Hammer.
As for the accusations of racism, Johnny Depp’s performance never borders on tasteless, and thanks to a brilliant plot twist in the film, an explanation of Depp’s “Deppisms” for Tonto is displayed, giving a convincing reason for why Tonto is anything BUT a representation of his tribe. The fact that tribe members with speaking roles are played by actual Native Americans is a nice touch, granted a good many of them aren’t actually Comanche Indians. Points for effort.
The Lone Ranger is not an awful film, though, because of racial undertones or unlikeable characters. The Lone Ranger is an awful film because it’s much too long, drags with some of the worst pacing ever and is inconsistent as hell.
When trying to decide if the movie wants to be a serious, gritty re-imagining of the source material, or a comedy double-act of Pirates with train jumping and gun-slinging in place of ship battles and sword fights, it settles for becoming a disjointed mess of mismatched moments. Or, to put it simply, as Tonto would say: “Movie is stupid. It is very stupid Kemosabe.”