Lone Ranger, The

The eagerly-awaited big-screen version, “The Lone Ranger,” is vastly disappointing, both as a revisionist Western and as a wild comedy. Earlier reports suggested that it would be like a fun movie about the Wild Wild West for all members of the family

Trailer: www.emanuellevy.com/?attachment_id=64700

Reteaming after the enormous success of the “Pirates of the Caribbean” franchise, director Gore Verbinski and star Johnny Depp deliver a massive epic, rumored to have a quarter of a billion dollar budget, which doesn’t fulfill expectations on any level, not even as mass entertainment for the long lazy days of summer.

Three credited scribes, Ted Elliott, Terry Rossio (the “Pirates” movies) and Justin Haythe (“Revolutionary Road”) have worked on the screenplay, but the end result is far from satisfying. The saga is too much of a mishmash and patchwork, in which action set-pieces are arbitrarily inserted into the rambling narrative.

Verbinski is a good commercial director, who previously made the entertaining animated Western, “Rango,” voiced by Johnny Depp, in 2011. But in this picture he seems to have hard time mixing the elements of the saga, or even positioning the characters against the imposing vistas of Monument Valley, made famous by John Ford. Above all, the film suffers from thematic discontinuities and tonal imbalances.

In its good moments, which are few, “The Long Ranger” comes across as an anachronistic tale, neither grounded in authentically historical locale, nor pleasing as a saga told from a more contemporaneous POV.

More than anything else, this Lone Ranger” unfolds as yet another variation of the Odd Couple, here played by the white and handsome and gifted actor Armie Hammer (rather bland, too much of a vanilla), as John Reid, and the always eccentric Johnny Depp, masked and tattooed, as the Native American Tonto.

The movie doesn’t benefit much from changing the story’s perspective, or from moving Tonto the Indian fighter, usually a secondary character, into center-stage, as he relates the apparently untold tale of how Reid was transformed from a straight-faced man of the law, into The Lone Ranger, a mythic figure and legend of justice.

The Lone Ranger and Tonto are characters etched into our popular collective consciousness mostly because of their infectious, pervasive theme—the famous The William Tell Overture.

Depp has said that he borrowed the look of the character from Kirby Sattler’s painting “I Am Crow” by interpreting a bird flying above the head of a noble Native American as a strange sort of headdress. This hat proves to be Tonto’s distinguishing element, when the young Lone Ranger fan, about 12, discovers him tucked away and forgotten in a San Francisco sideshow tent.

It is 1933, just months after the radio series began its popular run (Tonto did not appear until the 11th episode). As the “noble savage,” Tonto offers to set the record straight about John Reid’s legendary exploits decades ago.

The tale cuts to 60 years earlier, when Tonto and District Attorney Reid meet in silver-rich country as strangers on a train heading West. Thrown together for the rest of the film, they confront greedy transport tycoons, savage criminals, Comanche warriors, and shared tragedy, which leads to their mythic destiny.

With his deadpan expression, Johnny Depp goes out of his way to exert his idiosyncratic charisma and quirky persona as Tonto, but he is defeated by a film that can’t decide where its dramatic locus and humor are.

Among the characters actors, Barry Pepper’s Captain Jay Fuller is good in his brief scenes as the perverse butcher, William Fichtner excels as the grotesque psychopath Butch Cavendish.

There is not much fun to be had in this wannabe blockbuster, which overextends its welcome by at least half an hour–its running time is inexplicably 149 minutes–and at the end you feel exhausted and relieved that it’s over rather than exhilarated or entertained.

A longer review will be published later today.