What is it about summer that makes us turn to movies that go boom? Is it that our wild and adventurous natures, finally frolicking in the outdoors soaking up every sunshine moment chasing Pokémon with friends, yearn for a movie that will sing the same daredevil song as our free, young souls? Or is it, like anything else, that we need set seasons for movie-watching? October – January is thinking, drinking, drama time while May – August is laughing fireballs and minimal clothing. I guess it depends on which genre you prefer as company to your ice cap, and which pairs better with mulled wine.
Originally there were eight rangers. They set off into the Texas desert in search of murderin’, stealin’, spittin’ Butch Cavendish (William Fichtner) who’s late for a date with a noose. Butch, however, would rather not be found, and sets an ambush for our brave squad of rangers. All are killed in the attack – or so we think. The great, white spirit horse chooses John Reid (Armie Hammer), the tag-along ranger, to return from the other side. The horse resolutely decides that this ranger is the perfect partner for Tonto (Johnny Depp), a Native American on a half-baked quest for revenge. With Tonto’s spiritual guidance, the horse’s uncanny ability to appear when needed, and the lone ranger’s righteous need to protect his beautiful sister-in-law, the gang of three set out across the desert to find Butch and bring him to justice.
The Lone Ranger is dangerously similar to Pirates of the Caribbean. I say “dangerously” because you can only blaze that trail once before you burn the forest down. The comedy, the action, the here-there-and-back-again quest, the modestly insane Johnny Depp, all point to a pirate adventure in the high desert, only this time we’re missing the tough but charming Captain Barbosa. Instead we get a villain addicted to wealth who obediently follows the plot. Butch is wherever the story needs him to be and politely refrains from killing the sentimentally valuable characters until the good guys have a chance to catch up. There is no ticking clock pushing Butch towards an end goal, and no desire past the dream of having pockets lined with silver. He’s a mean, greedy, ugly old lizard that obediently waits for his comeuppance.
Thankfully for Butch, it’s a long wait. Our unlikely heroes struggle to track down his band of murderers who literally leave a trail of fire and bodies in their wake. John is either too dumb or too blinded by the pretty girl to see the bigger picture. It is purely by coincidence that saving his lady also means stopping the bad guy.
Tonto, meanwhile, is focused on being Tonto. It could be that he wants Butch dead… but maybe he’s just following John like a bored cat; deciphering the directions of the tasteless sand isn’t as easy as it looks. The Lone Ranger’s Tonto is, honestly, a little insulting. There’s a messy attempt at comedy and functional insanity plastered over a real frame of tradition and spirituality. Tonto seems to worship the spirit horse, and values its age-old wisdom – before he straps a saddle on it and abandons it in the desert every other afternoon.
The fact that The Lone Ranger has to rely on a flying, mystical horse to keep the audience engaged points towards a whole different slew of issues. I expected a Western, not The NeverEnding Story. Unfortunately this kind of special magical fancy is all part of the movie’s framework – as told by a future, senior citizen Tonto that impersonates a wax figurine of himself in a travelling exhibit. Let’s rewind. The Lone Ranger isn’t just the gun-shooting railroad adventure it appears to be; it’s actually a narrative told by an ancient (and still crazy) Tonto to a small boy at a fair. Why we need this narrative framework instead of just telling the story plain and simple is completely beyond me. The plot would move just fine on its own without the kid from The Princess Bride interrupting every other chapter. We’re constantly thrown in and out of this disjointed plot by a random, abandoned child and Tonto’s disorientation.
Like face paint that is never applied and doesn’t wash off, The Lone Ranger leaves me with an unnatural, itchy feeling. From the nocturnal, carnivorous rabbits to landing in a crate of silver like soft, Styrofoam nuggets, The Lone Ranger feels fake and forced. Our well-dressed hero and his politically incorrect side-kick hunt down a scarred man who shoots Chinese labourers that protest against dying in a mineshaft. I can’t put my finger on it, but there’s something not quite right about this action-comedy. The Lone Ranger is a mildly inappropriate 4/10.