Went to see The Lone Ranger at the weekend with Ed. Expectations were duly dialed down to ‘low’ due to the terrible things I’d heard about the movie. One review I’d seen had lambasted it horribly, giving it a solitary star out of five.
Still, it’s got Johnny Depp, an actor who I always find watchable. Let’s see.
You know what? It was great. Pure Saturday matinee hokum. The two leads were good – Armie Hammer was very watchable as John Reid and reminded me of Jimmy Stewart as the bumbling bookish do-gooder.
And Johnny Depp was, well, Johnny Depp. With a bird on his head.
The trailers suggested that we were in for another Pirates of the Caribbean-esque comedy bumbling fool, but actually his performance here is more nuanced and subtle. Yes, there are some pure comedy moments, but it’s struck through with a deeper undertone. The bird serves its purpose, and not just for comic effect.
Helena Bonham Carter also crops up along the way, as does Tom Wilkinson and Ruth Wilson (last seen as Luther’s nemesis, Alice), though the ladies are sadly underused – par for the course for westerns and summer blockbusters alike.
William Fichtner does a splendid turn as a bad guy, chewing the scenery (and that’s not all, ick) and being generally eeeevil as Butch Cavendish.
The story is framed much like my all-time favourite film, The Princess Bride, with an old character telling a youngster a story. In the Princess Bride it is, of course, Peter Falk as the grandfather telling his story to the young Fred Savage. Here we have the elderly Tonto recounting the tale of how he met the Lone Ranger. Some sterling make-up work transforms Mr Depp into an almost unrecognisable older version of himself. I loved the way the story would drop out from the telling so the young boy could interrupt (as young boys have a tendency to do). It’s a nice little narrative device, and does make you wonder about exactly how well Tonto’s memory held up.
It’s not without its faults. At nearly two and a half hours, it’s easily half an hour (if not more) too long. That said, it’s got the usual origin story problem of having to introduce everyone, then the added setup of getting Tonto and Reid to meet up, fall out, get back together again etc etc.
The action set pieces are spectacular, Depp’s comedy performance seems to be channeling Buster Keaton (no bad thing) and there are some genuinely funny moments in there. The portrayal of good vs bad, cowboys vs indians isn’t what some people make it out to be in the reviews. There’s bad and good on both sides, and it’s quite clear who we should be rooting for. It’s got a lot of the Indiana Jones spirit to it, and, now I think about it, more room to breathe than a lot of films. Shots are allowed to linger. Characters given time to develop. Maybe that 149 minute running time is justified, after all.
And when the William Tell Overture (or the Lone Ranger theme, to people like me) finally kicks in, it was hard to suppress a cheer.
Ignore the critics. Go see it. Recapture that childhood. It’s fun.
Hi ho, Silver. Away!