The soundtrack blasts the William Tell Overture as we gaze at the Lone Ranger, in black mask and white hat, atop his mighty stallion, as he shouts, "Hi-yo Silver" and gallops away. It's a stirring moment - just what I was hoping for from the experience. Unfortunately, it occur s over two hours into the two-and-a-half hour movie.
The Lone Ranger is a mess. There are entertaining moments, to be sure, but oh what you have to sit through to see them. The film is too long, overwritten, too bombastic and too violent for its PG-13 rating. It's not fun. Segues between some scenes seem to be missing. It feels like a collection of over-the-top action set pieces mixed with a dry buddy comedy, with Tonto playing the deadpan smartass and the Lone Ranger a bumbling newcomer who slowly grows into his role as a hero.
Mind you, I'm not a hardcore Lone Ranger fan complaining about this revisionist take. I vaguely remember watching the TV series when I was little, but that's about it. But when I go to see a movie called The Lone Ranger, I want to see a western, not "Pirates of the Old West." Sure, the Disney film is produced by Jerry Bruckheimer and directed by Pirates of the Caribbean's Gore Verbinski, but I had hoped the boys might have realized by now that more is not always better and that massive, elaborately choreographed action scenes are commonplace in summer flicks. Watching the Lone Ranger and Silver galloping on top of a moving train and successfully leaping off is more exhausting than exhilarating. Every fight does not have to be a spectacle.
Then there's the framing device. The movie has a boy dressed as the Lone Ranger enter a Wild West carnival attraction in 1933, where an ancient Tonto (Johnny Depp, buried under old man prosthetics and face paint, and sporting a stuffed bird on his head) stands as an example of "The Noble Savage." Tonto, likely bored by the lack of customers, opts to tell the kid the story of the real Lone Ranger. The film opens and closes in this setting, with a couple of quick visits during the story, and the only thing it does is waste time and give Depp a chance to ham it up a little more.
Cut to the old west, where lawyer and Lone Ranger-to-be John Reid (Armie Hammer) is on a train to a small Texas town to join his brother Dan (James Badge Dale), a Texas Ranger, and sister-in-law (and former flame) Rebecca (Ruth Wilson). The train also carries two chained prisoners: Tonto and the villainous Butch Cavendish (William Fichtner), who sometimes cuts the hearts out of his victims and eats them.
The prisoners get loose and John is made a Ranger when he joins a posse to recapture Cavendish. From the film's title, it's safe to assume they are not successful. Tonto finds John, grudgingly tends to the wounded survivor and, with much grumbling and some mystical shit, teaches the Lone Ranger how to stop being such a rube.
Armie Hammer does what he can in the title role, but the character remains on the bland side. Johnny Depp stars as Tonto, doing his usual straight-faced quirky routine. Being covered in the face paint doesn't help, but Depp manages to work around it, though I can't figure out why Tonto speaks in broken sentences while other Native American characters in the film use perfect English.
There are good moments in The Lone Ranger and some of the dialogue works, but the tasty bits are buried in the excess-is-best mindset of the filmmakers. When the movie finally ended, the only thing I was happy about was that it was over.