After the success of “Pirates of the Caribbean,” it’s natural that director Gore Verbinski would want to not only replicate that formula but also top the thrills of his previous venture. However, casting Johnny Depp, plagiarizing some of his own action choreography, and using a thundering Hans Zimmer score doesn’t mark a monumental triumph. At least “The Lone Ranger” has ambition. The hectic sequences have an admirable outlandishness about them, steeped in over-the-top wonderment and radical conquests of resilience resembling the accomplishments of otherworldly superheroes.
A lengthy climax reminds the audience that what unfolds before them is an action film and little else, using ceaseless explosions and booming gunfire to continually force that concept to the forefront. These moments suffer from a lack of fidelity and common sense, and a heavy reliance on computer effect substitutes; but all that could have been forgiven if as much attention had been afforded to the story. Too many baffling structural choices and an insistence on incorporating eccentricities into the imagery detract from the authenticity. With the inclusion of a talking Spirit Horse, vampire rabbits, and a bandit who eats the hearts of his victims, Depp’s contentious visual representation of Tonto just doesn’t seem that strange.
When unabashedly law-abiding county prosecutor John Reid (Armie Hammer) travels to Colby, Texas, he inadvertently interferes with both the Butch Cavendish (William Fichtner) gang’s attempt to free their incarcerated leader and the brooding Comanche Tonto’s (Johnny Depp) plot to kill the ruthless outlaw. With Cavendish successfully fleeing, and Tonto behind bars, John joins a posse led by his revered Texas Ranger brother, Dan (James Badge Dale). But tragedy strikes in their efforts to apprehend the vicious criminal, and John is left for dead in the unforgiving desert. When Tonto escapes his confines and once again begins his hunt for the murderous convict, he happens upon the injured lawman and nurses him back to health. Upon recovering, John forms a shaky alliance with the Indian and the two men vow to bring justice to Cavendish and his men once and for all.
It’s hard to believe that as each year goes by, despite the substantial advances in computer graphics, cinematography, and filmmaking techniques, movies somehow continue to become more unrealistic. The summer of 2013 seems to keep ratcheting up the ludicrousness, hopefully peaking with “The Lone Ranger,” a film so exasperatingly unbelievable, so exaggeratedly quixotic, it defies all expectations of starry-eyed fantasy Western adventure. The overlong finale is so gorged with gravity-defying flightiness (including trains that traverse rollercoaster tracks like something out of “Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom”) that it appears unedited from the director’s looks-good-on-paper storyboarding concepts – failing to acknowledge inertia, momentum, mass, properties of matter, or physics of any kind. So many scenes utilize computer-animated characters instead of stuntmen that crafting fake action must be more cost effective than choreographing reasonable athletic feats. Sadly, it all looks so deplorably phony.
Although set in the time of the iron rail, with cowboys and Indians and outlaws and lawmen, the events in the film are so out of place, they border on farce. The comic relief is abundant and unnecessary, continually reiterating idiosyncrasies the audience is well aware of nearly two hours into the plot. Registering a lenient PG-13, “The Lone Ranger” contains so many bodily fluid jokes and trite exchanges that the villains’ villainy must be numbingly amplified by bloodshed (scalping, cannibalism, torture), filthiness, deformities, and sweat, contradicting the buoyant attitudes of heroes blindly ignoring thoughts of self-preservation or a woman’s peg leg fatuously fashioned into a concealed gun (like something from the 1960’s “The Wild Wild West”).
Depp portrays a stunted version of Jack Sparrow as a Comanche imagined by Clive Barker, demonstrating an attachment to roles he can twist into something he could specifically conceive as fun to play. Like the flashbacks within flashbacks, hallucinatory visions through which the editors spin a narrative, and breaking the fourth wall, the character design is ineffectual – garnering raised eyebrows instead of awe. Countless moments are wasted on serpentine exposition, generous pauses for last-minute escapes, and sloppy arrangements for repetitive hostage situations, negotiations, and foiled executions. John’s annoying refusal to kill in self-defense (even when his love interest is about to be murdered) is used repeatedly to stretch out apprehensions and confrontations. At least the theme music is blasted at the end, though it is strangely old-fashioned for this update, fused with the infinite-bullet blueprint of action that could be discounted if not for the empty chamber gimmick that sadly rears its ugly head during a climactic shootout.
– The Massie Twins (GoneWithTheTwins.com)