“Hi-Yo, Silver! Away,” says The Lone Ranger, spouting his famous line as he rears up his horse. Looking quite silly in doing so, Tonto tells him, “Don’t ever do that again.” This comedic exchange encapsulates the flighty spirit of the new Lone Ranger film (opening today), which doesn’t take itself seriously, but manages to honor the iconic American hero in a way recent films have failed to do so (re: Superman in Man of Steel).
The Lone Ranger has long been one of the most popular and classic American characters of the past century. First appearing on the radio in 1933, this ex-Texas Ranger and his Native American sidekick, Tonto, stood for all that was right, fighting injustice all over the wild, wild West. The Lone Ranger rides his trusty steed, Silver, and uses silver bullets, to remind him how valuable it is if he were to use his weapon.
Director Gore Verbinski re-teams with his old pal Johnny Depp, taking the “don’t fix what isn’t broken” motto to heart. Here, they recreate what made Pirates of the Caribbean a success. Depp channels the whacky eccentricity of Captain Jack Sparrow and manages to create an equally funny and memorable character in Tonto. Opposite The Lone Ranger – played by Armie Hammer – Tonto is not at all a “sidekick.” But he also doesn’t over-shadow the top-billed Ranger. The two share the screen and are a lot of fun to spend some time with.
The movie has everything, presumably, that one would want from a Summer blockbuster as it pays homage not only to the characters but to the Western itself. There are bank robberies, train heists, shootouts, ambushes and hangings. The heroes follow a strict moral code and the bad guy (Tom Wilkinson) even has one of those Dick Dastardly looks to him, wielding both creepy facial hair and a top hat. Unlike the new Superman, The Lone Ranger still finds a way to adhere to his morals while saving the day simultaneously. Now that’s a real hero.
There are two things that The Lone Ranger has that few other films this Summer have had: One, a cohesive script not seemingly written in crayon by a pack of unruly chimpanzees and presented for consumption to the popcorn cavemen of the world (you know who you are) who eat this sort of crap up, lurking in dark multiplexes. Second and most importantly, it has a sense of fun. Every time someone in The Lone Ranger starts to get serious, something funny happens to provide a bit of levity.
The film isn’t perfect, though I’m not quite sure that “perfection” is what the filmmakers were going for in the first place. The story is framed in a very cheesy way a la The Princess Bride, where an old geezer version of Tonto relates this tale to a young boy dressed up as The Lone Ranger. Once in a while during the action – when men are jumping and swinging on ropes and ladders in-between two speeding trains – it becomes a bit incredulous…not in a good way. But these are minor quibbles, mainly providing a chance for Johnny Depp to play yet another character in make-up.
Though it started a bit slow, The Lone Ranger quickly won me over on all fronts. Johnny Depp and Armie Hammer are two heroes I wouldn’t mind seeing ride again, surrounded by strong supporting baddies, from Tom Wilkinson’s crooked businessman to Barry Pepper’s corrupt cavalryman to the down and dirty scumbag Butch Cavendish, played by William Fichtner. The action was inventive and exciting sans 3D manipulation and the script both served to update the character as well as stay true to what made him popular in the first place.
The Lone Ranger is easily the most fun you’ll have at movie theaters so far this Summer.
Genre: Action, Adventure, Western
Run Time: 2 hours, 29 minutes, Rated PG-13
Starring: Johnny Depp, Armie Hammer, Helena Bonham Carter, Barry Pepper, William Fichtner, Tom Wilkinson, James Badge Dale
Directed by Gore Verbinski (Rango, Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl/Dead Man’s Chest/At World’s End, The Ring, The Mexican)
Opens locally on Wednesday, July 3, 2013 (check for show times).
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How to read Tom Santilli’s “Star Ratings:”
- 5 Stars: Exceptional, must-see movie
- 4 Stars: Very good movie, not without flaws
- 3 Stars: The movie was just OK, leaves a lot to be desired
- 2 Stars: Pretty bad, a let-down, disappointing, but with some redeeming qualities
- 1 Star: Awful, sloppy, a total waste of time