Saturday, July 13, 2013

Lone Ranger Review

Yeah, I normally write about photography.  In a sense, cinema is photography.  It's an art which is not much different from still photography.  I am a fan of movies.  As a kid, it was my escape from life.  When I was a little boy, I couldn't wait to go to the movies on Saturday.  I also watched a TV series called "The Lone Ranger".  I wanted to be the Lone Ranger.  I had a mask, I had the silver .45 Peacemaker gun.  My little brother was Tonto.  Tonto cried a lot.

So I was pretty jazzed when I brought up the idea to Judi that we go see a movie.  She's not a fan of westerns, or the Lone Ranger, but sometimes she puts up with something that I like to make me happy.  
Let's get right to it.  Johnny Depp gets top billing in the movie.  Why?  Because he carries the movie.  For those of you who want a one sentence review to decide if you should go see it, here it is.  It's big on special effects and lots of "Wowee!" adventure, and short on acting, script, character, realism, and is not worth the box office price.

I think an actor is measured by the depth and range of the characters he or she portrays.  Depp has a lot of range.  He could adapt and be believable in almost any role.  I'm guessing that the director of this movie, really LOVED watching him play Jack Sparrow in the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise, and encouraged Depp to make Tonto an indian version of Sparrow.  (when you see the movie, you'll understand what I mean)

In Lone Ranger, Depp's Tonto is a mentally ill Commanche who's own tribe abandoned him.  As a running gag, he spends much of the movie talking and feeding the dead bird on his head. Yes, Tonto is the comedy relief in the Lone Ranger.  For those of you who are shaking your head... yes.  He's the comedy.  If he were alive, they could have had Harpo Marx play Tonto and gotten the same result.

So the part of me that doesn't like seeing Tonto as a comedy character, has a lot more to say about the way they portray the character of John Reid (the masked Ranger).  If you ever watched the TV show (or older generations with the radio version) you know that John Reid's brother was killed by the outlaw Butch Cavendish, and John Reid embarks on a trail of revenge and justice to bring in the gang who murdered his brother.  He wears the mask because everyone believes that John Reid was killed.  That's where the similarity ends between the traditional plot and this new movie plot.

(Don't worry, no plot spoilers that will ruin the movie if you decide to throw away your money on this)

Armie Hammer (unknown actor who doesn't have much more than a character on "The Simpsons" in his resume') plays the Ranger as a District Attorney who is a proud coward.  He hates guns, hates violence, but he does boast that he was on the boxing team at Harvard Law School.  So now we have Harpo Marx as Tonto, and Don Knotts as the Lone Ranger.  He can't hold a gun, and doesn't know how to shoot, and is literally petrified in fear for the first half of the film.  It's his brother (the Texas Ranger) who is the brave warrior who married the girl that John Reid was in love with.  There's another running gag that Tonto's word for him "Kimmosabe" means "Wrong Brother".

You may be wondering if there's any part of the movie that I liked.  Yes.  One of the important parts of any screenplay is to have your main character develop and grow.  By the end of the movie, we see John Reid develop a little backbone, and as we finally hear the music of the William Tell Overture, before he yells "Hi-Yo, Silver!" the Lone Ranger takes his horse on top of a moving train (that you've seen from the movie trailers)

Not all the acting in this movie is bad or inappropriate.  There are some particularly good villains.  William Fichtner is a really nasty, evil looking Butch Cavendish.  Tom Wilkinson plays the typical rich villain who's greed and success will ruin the country.  I also got a kick out of the madame of the brothel, Red, played brilliantly by Helena Bonham Carter.

If you are in the mood for a poorly acted script of a comedy, with lots of action, and some yuck-yuck laughs, and lots of computer generated scenes, and ONLY if you have no pre-conceived knowledge of the TV show or how the characters should have been played, this would be a good waste of money and two hours.

I can't just say it was crap without mentioning how I would have done (or written) it better.  What I remember of the character from the TV show, or rather the message that he was always making is that you use your brain, not your muscle.  He captured the bad guys without shooting them by out-thinking them.  Tonto was the wise sage of the prairie.  More like the Yoda version of the Indian sidekick.  The directors and writers went for the money, meaning that they wrote it for the lowest common denominator and reduced it to a two hour fart joke.  They failed.  They spent millions and millions on this, and I doubt they will make a profit.  But then, I could be wrong.

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