The Lone Ranger struggled from the very beginning. It faced all kinds of problems during filming, including the death of a stuntman and an awful lot of money issues, and was very nearly cancelled, on more than one occasion I think. Once it was released, the critics slammed it. A lot of the cast and crew thought this was unjustified and that the reviews had been written once financial woes first appeared on the horizon, before the film was even made, but whether this was justified or not there’s no way to dress up the fact that The Lone Ranger was basically a commercial failure. It was pretty surprising considering the names that were involved, but the basic fact of the matter is that it was an expensive film to make and included some controversial choices, and in the end it didn’t pay off.
Despite all of this, I rather enjoyed it. Okay so it was a little on the long side, but it was a good old-fashioned caper that didn’t take itself too seriously. Armie Hammer plays lawyer turned deputy Texas Ranger John Reid, who accompanies his brother Dan and a group of other rangers who are trying to arrest an escaped criminal, Butch Cavendish. They’re led into an ambush and all of the rangers are killed, except John who is believed to be dead. He sees Butch Cavendish cut out and eat his brother’s heart. John is nursed back to health by Tonto, a Comanche Indian who is also after Butch Cavendish for killing his tribe, and they pursue Butch and his gang together. That’s the very basic gist of it, it’s a lot more involved than that but I don’t want to give too much away.
Now, I am a big fan of Johnny Depp, and I tend to go and see every film that he’s in (with the exception of The Tourist, not even the lure of Johnny could tempt me into that one!). I liked that he chooses roles that interest him and normally ends up with a fun, quirky character rather than just a romantic lead. It seemed like there was no danger of him being typecast, and yet now I get the distinct impression that he’s being typecast into the off-the-wall roles. There was something extremely familiar about his portrayal of Tonto, and that’s because I’ve seen Johnny Depp playing ‘unusual’ so many times now. He even had the funny little Jack Sparrow run with the flailing arms (although I’m starting to think that perhaps that is just how Johnny Depp runs in real life. It wouldn’t surprise me to be honest, he seems like quite a quirky character himself). There were certainly elements of Pirates of the Caribbean in the film though, and at times it did feel a bit like it was Pirates set in the desert. A lot of the marketing played around the fact that The Lone Ranger was made by the team responsible for Pirates, and I feel that was a mistake. By the time the fourth film came round, it was plain to see that the Pirates franchise was losing its way, and maybe that’s what put audiences off. They’ve already seen four Pirates films (the first three of which I thought were rather good, I was a bit confused by the second and third but I thought the first one was bloody brilliant!), but that idea’s old news now. I think people thought they knew exactly what they were going to get from that particular team, and they decided that, actually, we’ve seen enough of that now thanks. It’s a shame because it was good fun and there were a lot of effects and silliness, and I still adore Johnny Depp and was rather charmed by his Tonto. It is an understandable audience reaction though, which is why I think relying so much on the Pirates connection was an error by the studio.
I have to say though, I didn’t really like the idea of an elderly Tonto being an exhibit at a fun fair. It all just seemed rather sad. And I think it’s a bit mean to refer to John Reid as ‘The Lone Ranger’ when he’s not alone, he’s got Tonto by his side! I know there was a lot of controversy about the casting of Johnny Depp to play a Native American, but I’m sure I remember reading many years ago that Johnny has Cherokee ancestry, and that’s why he’s got a Native American tattoo on his arm (and possibly why he’s got such amazing cheekbones). I know the casting caused quite a stir though and did cause some offence, but Johnny has also been praised for speaking (or at least trying to speak) the Comanche language in the film. I think the main reason ‘The Lone Ranger’ sort of disappeared and fell from favour all those years ago was because it was seen to be un-PC, and so it was always going to be a bit of a risk bringing it back. Overall I thought Johnny Depp’s performance was a good one, even if it seemed a bit Jack Sparrow-ish at times. I have missed those Jack Sparrow facial expressions though, so I was rather pleased to see them making a come-back!
Like I said, I thought the film was good fun. It was perhaps a bit too silly in places and, although I did find it funny, it wasn’t nearly as funny as it thought it was. There were some rather bizarre elements to it that I felt didn’t quite fit, like the appearance every now and then of a group of sinister, flesh-eating rabbits, but on the whole the plot was easy to follow, albeit a bit daft. It was a bit too predictable at times, I worked out the little plot twist quite a way in advance of it being revealed, but that didn’t spoil the fun. I did feel like it took a while to get going and lasted longer than necessary, but on the whole I was entertained. The appearance of Helena Bonham Carter in a Johnny Depp film minus the involvement of Tim Burton was a bit of a surprise, but I liked the idea of her character and I thought she played it well (although lately I find she’s also suffering from the ‘quirky oddball’ typecasting like Mr Depp).
So there you go, the film was alright. But the soundtrack! Bloody hell, the soundtrack was good! It was composed by Hans Zimmer, who I just adore, and who of course also worked on the Pirates of the Caribbean series. This kind of connection is no bad thing though, because anyone with a decent pair of ears can tell that the Pirates of the Caribbean soundtracks were brilliant. I listen to the first three on a very regular basis and never fail to enjoy them; the third soundtrack is particularly wonderful, and quite possibly my favourite work by Hans Zimmer. Needless to say, I always get pretty excited when I see Hans Zimmer listed on the opening credits of any film. The Lone Ranger soundtrack didn’t disappoint in the slightest. It was so obviously, recognisably Hans Zimmer. Okay so it’s a bit familiar in the sense that if you listen to any of his themes from any of the movies he scored, you can always pick out bits that sound like his scores for other movies. But if the scores themselves are brilliant, I don’t really see what the problem is. There’s only so many ideas one man can come up with, after all. And if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it! All of his soundtracks work so well and sound so amazing, I don’t care if at times they sound a bit like each other. The Finale piece from The Lone Ranger is a work of absolute genius though. It’s inspired. It’s a reworking of Rossini’s William Tell Overture, and it’s absolutely brilliant. It works so well alongside a scene of John galloping on a white horse along the roof of a speeding train, and I just think it’s wonderful. I don’t know how anyone could fail to enjoy this piece of music. In fact, I’d recommend watching the film purely for the Finale piece alone. What’s actually happening on screen is rather ridiculous, Tonto’s using ladders to hop from train to train and there’s all kinds of hijinks and silliness going on, but it just works so well as a whole, especially with this fabulous piece of music. And it’s the music people think of when they see galloping horses, so it’s just such a brilliant choice! I’m going to stop rambling and gushing in a minute, but seriously, listen to it. It really is bloody good!
So to sum up The Lone Ranger in a nutshell: it’s good fun. Don’t dismiss it based on the negative reviews because you might be pleasantly surprised by it. I find it surprising that the critics slammed it as much as they did, when it’s got such big names as Johnny Depp, Jerry Bruckheimer and Gore Verbinski attached to it. I don’t think such a combination of people would be capable of making a truly terrible film. I thought it was okay, and okay is distinctly better than rubbish. I was entertained; I’d been looking forward to it based on the trailers, and I thought it delivered on what the trailers had promised. So if you like the look of the trailer, give it a go! (And perhaps if you were a fan of the first Pirates of the Caribbean film, you’ll also find this a fun watch. Not that they want to make a big deal out of their association or anything…)