2013-07-02

The Lone Ranger – Cowboys of the Caribbean?

by Yo Snyder

The Lone Ranger rides again!…with Captain Jack Sparrow? If
it seems like it at times in Disney’s new reboot of The Lone Ranger, it’s understandable. After all, this is Jerry
Bruckheimer and Gore Verbinski and Johnny Depp; some of the core team that
brought Captain Jack to life. They obviously want to recapture some of the
magic of their first outing in the Pirates
of the Caribbean
with this version of the Lone Ranger, and at times they
do. However, at other times, they lift a bit too much from their Pirates
formula which can make the movie at times feel like Cowboys of the Caribbean. Still, when it just sticks to telling the
legend of the Lone Ranger, it’s a fun, exciting western that gives new life to
a classic legend.

Now in all fairness to Johnny Depp, when he created the
character of Captain Jack Sparrow, he created a truly iconic character that no
one would ever be able top; not even him. Unfortunately for him, pretty much
any quirky character he does from now own will be compared to Captain Jack. For
the most part, Tonto is another great character for Johnny Depp to play, but
there are those times where it does feel a bit like his most famous role.
However, perhaps that’s just the curse of having created a truly memorable,
iconic character. For most mart, Johnny Depp does just fine as Tonto. The same
is true of Armie Hammer. However, I will say there never seems to be a moment
where he really “becomes” the Lone Ranger. There’s not that moment of lasting
resolve and confidence where he accepts his destiny and all that it entails. I
don’t know if that’s an issue of his portrayal or just this story. Like Depp,
for the most part he’s fine.

In fact, that’s pretty much what could be said of this
movie. For the most part it’s fine. It’s funny, entertaining and action-packed.
When it sticks to just telling the legend of the Lone Ranger, it does a great
job. In fact, I was glad that so much of that origin story is adhered to. On
the other times, there are moments where you can tell this movie is really
trying to live up the legacy of the first Pirates movies, and in those moments
it really does feel like Cowboys of the
Caribbean
There are scenes and beats that are just too familiar, which
drag this film down by comparison because, well, it’s just not as good as the
film it’s borrowing some material from.

And there is one thing it borrows that I really think it
could have done without; the dark, gritty violence that showed up especially in
the later Pirates sequels. For much of the film it has a tone of a fun,
comedic, action adventure. Every now and then, however, there’s a truly,
violently dark turn of events that constitutes a wild shift in tone. It’s a
shame because the Lone Ranger has always been a hero the whole family can
enjoy, and but for a few scenes, the same would be true here as well. So beware
of those few scenes and the darker tint this film for some reason adopts at
times.

There’s also an interesting supernatural component running
underneath this entire story. It’s a subtle element, and all the more
compelling because it is so. Are the bad guys just bad guys, or are they bad
guys because of something truly evil; supernaturally evil? Is the hero just a
good guy because he’s a good guy, or is there a greater force of righteousness
at work? These questions are never answered, or even directly answered, and I
think rightly so. It adds an intriguing element to the proceedings without
going too far into the supernatural elements of the Pirates series. Of course
the Bible has a very direct answer for those questions. “For our struggle is
not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities,
against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil
in the heavenly realms.” (Ephesians 6:12) There is very much a supernatural
element to the world around us, a great battle of good and evil that rages all
around us and does indeed have a profound effect on this world. We can acknowledge
it or ignore, but that doesn’t change the nature of its reality or the fact
that we’re all caught up in it; some more so than others. The interesting thing
is it’s a war that’s already been decided. The victor has already been decided,
and the reason so many narratives end with the triumph of righteousness and
good is because the narrative, the
one we’re all participating in, ends that way. We already know what the winning
side will be; the question is, whether or not that will be the side we choose
to join.

I have always been a fan of the Lone Ranger, and in truth
have followed the production of this new take on it with some worry. However,
the end result is better than what I expected. Yes, it’s too long, it’s a
little too Pirates, it has a few too many story lines that never get the time
to be fully developed, and it has too many origin stories. Sometimes the comedy
is too forced or too campy. Sometimes the action is too over-the-top. Yet, when
that classic theme of the William Tell Overture begins and heralds that the
Lone Ranger is indeed riding again, and as you see him do his heroic daring-do
with his faithful friend and partner Tonto as they work to right that which is
wrong; it’s thrilling fun. It’s exactly what I hoped this movie would be.
Unfortunately, it takes too long and dips in to some far too dark places before
finally getting there, and even then, isn’t entirely sure just how seriously to
take it. Despite its production troubles, like World War Z, The Lone Ranger
has found a way to overcome them and to deliver a genuinely enjoyable movie.
The Lone Ranger really deserves better, and something with less Pirates
influence, but in truth, it could have been much worse. Perhaps with this first
outing under his belt, when the Lone Ranger rides again it will the heroic,
light-hearted, fun, rip-roaring adventure we were all hoping for.

Score: 5 of 7 – The Lone Ranger is really more of a 4,
but since it did exceed my (admittedly low) expectations, I bumped up the score
a bit. Still, this is a pretty gritty PG-13. There are some fairly gnarly
scenes of violence and implied violence, so it’s not quite the family adventure
it should be. For older kids, it should be fine, but for my family (8 and 11),
they’re not going to be seeing this on in theaters.