Review: Verbinski's 'Lone Ranger' is an Obvious, Pointless Blockbuster

July 3, 2013

The Lone Ranger

Hi-ho, silliness! Away! With all the bravado and fanfare that would come from a Gore Verbinski/Johnny Depp/Jerry Bruckheimer reunion, The Lone Ranger is the kind of summer blockbuster that should have moviegoers frothing with anticipation. Even when the team behind the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise seemed to have run out of ideas, the sheer magnitude of those films carried with it a sense of built-in enjoyment. Not so with their latest endeavor. Instead of galloping across the screen, The Lone Ranger stumbles with every step, mixing goofy comedy with oddly horrific violence, none of which works. But, hey, if you like trains, you're in luck.

It doesn't start out all bad. The opening scene is quite a change of pace for anyone even remotely familiar with The Lone Ranger mythology, planting us first in a 1930s carnival where a young boy, fully decked out in his favorite Lone Ranger gear, comes across an Old West museum that piques his interests. What piques them even more is the elderly Native American man he finds there, a man who clearly has a few screws loose upstairs but who claims to be the infamous Tonto (Johnny Depp). As the boy listens on intently, Tonto recalls the events surrounding the Lone Ranger's origin and their first, epic adventure together.

Right off the bat, all is well with The Lone Ranger. Not even Depp's lunacy behind mounds of old man makeup can deter the screenplay and Verbinski's direction from getting the energy up. Unfortunately, it doesn't last long. We're soon introduced to John Reid (Armie Hammer), a Texas lawyer who'd rather fight his battles with the law than a gun full of silver bullets. The players, good and bad, fall into place, Reid's transformation to the masked man comes about like clockwork, and blockbuster, Western action flies in from the left and the right. Pretty typical stuff that rarely dares to step outside the lines.

The Lone Ranger

However, nothing about The Lone Ranger ever seems to be on sure footing. Depp's typical craziness is all the film strives for in terms of real comedy. The action escalates to bigger and more explosive set pieces, but that hot air pouring from the raging locomotives in those action pieces is more than a little symbolic. What energy the film sets up in the opening is quickly lost in the start/stop/start pacing the film has to trample through. Every time the film seems to be picking up a little bit of steam - pun definitely intended - it all gets cut short by another bout of wackiness from its lead or an ill-timed jump back to the 1930s bookend.

It isn't just that Depp's oddity wears thin, either, although that is certainly true. It's about the eighth or ninth time he tries feeding that dead bird sitting on his head that that particular joke hits a breaking point. What's more aggravating, though, is how tonally disjointed the entire film is. Even the Pirates movies had their fair share of darkness mixed with broad humor, but The Lone Ranger seems to be heading in either direction at twice the speed and with three times the tenacity. It's difficult to go from seeing Silver, the Lone Ranger's magical spirit animal who essentially chose him to wear the mask, sitting on a branch of a tree to watching the film's villain eat another character's heart. Sure Verbinski/Depp/Bruckheimer was the first team to convince Disney a PG-13 worked, but The Lone Ranger is working on an awkward level of ugliness.

The Pirates movies, though set in some strange, historical place, almost seemed like fantasies. Those worlds were familiar to us, but just outside the grasp of reality, enough that the back-and-forth between slapstick and sorrow almost seemed natural. With The Lone Ranger, the time and place are very evident, very much our United States only about 150 years in the past. Also, it might help the balance if either the humor or the seriousness were believable. It's hard for anything to be believable when Johnny Depp is wearing white makeup, though.

The Lone Ranger

The action becomes a deciding factor, especially when the director's history of blockbuster action is tried and true. Sadly, no matter how big The Lone Ranger gets, its ankles seem to be shackled to only one kind of excitement, that being trains. And lots of them. If Depp's idea of wackiness doesn't wear thin by the end of the film, the sight of seeing all-out action entertainment in/on/around a train very well could. It's as if the screenwriters couldn't think of anything else to write into the film. At one point in the film's development, werewolves played a part. While it sounds idiotic on paper, at least it would have been something off the beaten-to-death path. Or track, as the case here may be. At least the werewolf angle would have given the film that fantastical edge it needed.

Not even the pairing of Depp and Hammer can save the film from going off the rails - pun again. Armie Hammer, handsome and heroic an appearance as he may give off, works best in his lighter moments. He gets lost behind the mask, though, once the action kicks in, a pretty sad occurrence since it's a tiny sliver of black cloth over his eyes. There's no camaraderie between Reid and Tonto, even when their differences turn into full blown partnership. They look good together on the poster, but that's about it. By the film's end - no spoiler alert necessary - we're left to believe these two rode together for decades to come, taking on all form of villainy in the sweeping West. It just as well could have ended right there with a friendly handshake and a ride into the sunset.

And that's how the whole Lone Ranger undertaking comes off, like a quick, uneventful trek across the plains that ends just as you would expect and no frills along the way to keep your journey interesting. It's big, even loud at times, but there's nothing interesting going on either below the dusty surface or right on top of it. At least at 150 minutes, you know you're going to get your fill of the masked rider and his Indian friend. You also get your fill of the dead bird, the weird horse, and trains trains trains. Maybe in some of those future adventures, the Lone Ranger and Tonto actually step off the obvious track. That sure isn't the case here.

Jeremy's Rating: 3 out of 10

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No surprise here. Where there is smoke... // Thanks Jeremy.

DAVIDPD on Jul 3, 2013


All that money and talent...and they still cant make a decent movie. They will never learn. First, real major Flop of this year IMO. It's gonna hurt. The buzz around here is pretty bad.

toksin on Jul 3, 2013


Re "The Lone Ranger".....I am 81 now and listened to The Lone Ranger on the radio as a very young girl child, while drying the dinner dishes with my mom. Religiously listening each NIGHT and savoring its imaginative and wonderful stories. Tonto was a steadfast friend. When did they paint him up and make a clown out of him? I've seen other Long Ranger productions...TV, etc.....but none can top the original radio productions. Today, too much emphasis is given to the actors and not the content of the story. I hesitate seeing this latest Lone Ranger movie; don't want to be driven into a depression over a loving childhood memory.

Helayne on Jul 3, 2013


You're not 81

Mic on Jul 3, 2013


Awh man, I knew the film wasn't taking itself TOO seriously, but 3 out of 10?! Bummer..

Nick Sears on Jul 3, 2013



Nielsen700 on Jul 3, 2013


I didn't think anything could be worse than Man of Steel.

Zack The Hack on Jul 3, 2013


Are you seriously comparing a cowboy movie.. to a fucking superhero movie..? You're a god damn tool is what you are.

ali3000 on Jul 4, 2013


if you thought the action in man of steel was bad, you sir are a gay.

jack22 on Jul 4, 2013


Shocking !!!

Tester on Jul 3, 2013


It's interesting to hear immediate whining about the dark, ugly, blood and genocide that's tainting our candy coated summer pop opiates. Now I'm really interested in seeing this film.

DePalma on Jul 3, 2013


Jeremy isn't whining about the darkness or blood and genocide, he's stating that it didn't fit the tone or serve the story overall, theres a big difference man, read more carefully next time.

c on Jul 3, 2013


I guess the predictions on the Golden Briefcase were wrong.. 😉

DavideCoppola on Jul 3, 2013


I'm feel the exact opposite of your review. I would give it a 7/10. It wasn't great, but good. I would love to see a trilogy of this franchise. I think Iron Man 3 deserved a review like the one you described above.

Nick M. on Jul 3, 2013


Saw this train wreck last night, your review nailed it on the head. There is nothing really entertaining about this movie. All the fun looking action you see in the trailer happens in the first 10 minutes and the last 15. The other 2 hours is just very very very painful dialog between people with no chemistry and re-re hashed plots from other movies. Sitting in the theater you feel every minute of this 2.5 hour disaster, I found myself waiting for the bridge to blow up so I knew the movie was almost over. Save yourself some money and watch Wild Wild West & Shanghai Noon with the Sherlock Holmes soundtrack.

Cregger on Jul 3, 2013


Oh and his walking at the end doesn't lead to anything, you can just leave the theater disappointed.

Cregger on Jul 3, 2013


Oh, Come on ! It deserves a much better number rating then that ! 3 out of 10 ? You've got to be joking !

Sean on Jul 3, 2013


Says the only guy with the lone ranger default picture.

JBrotsis on Jul 3, 2013


Well, regardless of that, the movie does deserve a much better number rating then 3 out of 10.

Sean on Jul 3, 2013


It's called an opinion. You're allowed to have a different one. It's ok. The world will keep on spinning.

IamSlave on Jul 4, 2013


It's not just my opinion. It's also a fact. The movie was a lot better then that, then just a 3 out of 10. A 10 out of 10 is more like it.

Sean on Jul 4, 2013


No, and you should learn the definition of "fact" before commenting. It'll save you a lot of time and embarrassment. Good day. 🙂

IamSlave on Jul 4, 2013


Yes, What I said before is a fact. I know what a fact is, you don't need to tell me to learn the definition of the word fact.

Sean on Jul 4, 2013


How sad and yet oddly pathetic. Ha, poor kid.

IamSlave on Jul 5, 2013


Nothing is sad or oddly pathetic. Its all good ! 🙂

Sean on Jul 5, 2013


Disney should have just fast-tracked another Pirates movie instead. On Stranger Tides (which I quite liked) still brought in over a billion dollars.

cobrazombie on Jul 3, 2013


I had a good time watching it. It was just a little too long, other than that it was fun.

Cs on Jul 4, 2013


At the end of the day, your review is nothing else but an opinion. We will see how it fares at the box office. Whoever goes to a movie like this and expect nuanced performances and very great acting is either very naive or deluded. It's a bit like complaining that the" fast and furious" movies have plotholes and not very good acting

It's a money maker on Jul 4, 2013


And thus far, it's not done that well at the B.O.

VAharleywitch on Jul 8, 2013


Lone Ranger was a good fun summer movie, Don't know what everybody else wanted out of a fun western movie, too much criticism.

Andrew on Jul 5, 2013


It's a good fun movie. Nothing more, nothing less. If you people want movie perfection, you won't ever find it. The idea is to entertain. This movie does that. Isn't that the entire point of making movies?

Guest on Jul 6, 2013


I agree 100%. Some people need to see past the actors and enjoy a film for what it is. It's not the greatest story, but the film finds away to entertain. I enjoyed it for what it was.

Logan on Jul 7, 2013


great movie...realy enjoyed it...not an oscar winner ...but hey's a summer blockbuster...

michael on Jul 7, 2013


just tired of the schtick surrounding the Depp has almost become a private joke for him.............I have no interest in seeing this on big screen or DVD anymore than I did the endless sequels of POTC...... They took a serious character and turned it into a sham, all so Depp could once more grandstand including his ridiculous makeup etc. for the role of Tonto.............. I am out of here permanently.

Rosalee Adams on Jul 7, 2013


It was a strange, strange mess.

Carpola on Jul 10, 2013

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