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The Lone Ranger

Reviews
by Leonard Maltin
July 3, 2013 12:00 AM
39 Comments
  • |

What were they thinking? I kept asking myself that question as I plodded through the boring first hour of this elaborate but elephantine Western. Why bother making a film called The Lone Ranger if your intention is to turn the famous hero into a doofus and his noble Indian friend into a wisecracking Greek chorus?

Photo by Peter Mountain - Courtesy of Disney Enterprises, Inc. and Jerry Bruckheimer Inc.

Let’s say, for the sake of argument, that producer Jerry Bruckheimer and director Gore Verbinski simply wanted to transplant the crowd-pleasing ingredients of Pirates of the Caribbean into a Western setting. Fair enough, as a commercial proposition…but you still ought to provide the audience with someone to root for, and this lumbering screenplay (by the Pirates guys, Ted Elliott and Terry Rossio, and Justin Haythe) offers nothing but lamebrains (like Armie Hammer’s Lone Ranger, who’s clueless) and a variety of villains, from scummy Butch Cavendish (William Fichtner) and his gang to a ruthless railroad baron to the U.S. Cavalry itself.

Even Tonto (Johnny Depp), who is half-crazed, for reasons explained well into the storyline, isn’t what you’d call heroic. He saves the Ranger’s life, but he’s played mostly for laughs, like Jack Sparrow. Except he’s not all that funny.

Helena Bonham Carter turns up, briefly and inexplicably, as a dance-hall madam with a high-tech shooting device for a leg. It’s that kind of film, where nothing much makes sense—like Tonto dragging an unconscious Ranger through a fresh pile of horse dung. Everything is impressively staged on an enormous scale, from the railroad scenes to Bonham Carter’s emporium, full of painted ladies who don’t reveal too much, lest they despoil the Disney movie’s PG-13 rating. (Never mind the scene when Cavendish uses his knife to cut out a good guy’s heart; that occurs just off-camera.)

I have taken great pains not to compare this film to earlier incarnations of The Lone Ranger because I think the movie fails on its own terms. The long, climactic chase scene is jammed with the kind of overblown CGI stunts that render everything unreal and, therefore, unexciting. If I’m going to make comparisons, Hans Zimmer’s use of Rossini’s “Overture to William Tell” is the most lackluster rendition of that familiar theme I’ve ever heard. A tinny recording of the old radio or TV show will reveal a much more thrilling presentation of this mighty piece of music.

But then, there’s nothing remotely genuine or sincere about The Lone Ranger. The vintage half-hour radio and TV episodes were formulaic in the extreme but they were done with conviction, and aimed squarely at kids (and the young-at-heart). That is why they endure and continue to entertain people, including baby boomers like me, after so many years. I’m already doing my best to forget this misbegotten movie.

 

         

          

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39 Comments

  • Bob Carson | January 11, 2014 5:18 PMReply

    Honestly now, could we really expect an honest review of Verbinski's "The Lone Ranger", knowing that Mr. Maltin recorded a 39-minute fawning interview with Clayton Moore's daughter for the 2001 DVD release of the 1956 version of "The Lone Ranger" starring Clayton Moore? Maltin gushed like an embarrassed schoolboy when Dawn Moore presented him with an official "aluminum" bullet and then he cooed on and on and on about Clayton's personal life, his sense of humor, his gun collection, love of children, honesty, etc., etc., blah-blah-blah. I was struck by their total avoidance of critiquing the actual original series and films themselves. Allow me to tell you why.

    I went through a bunch of the old LR films last week and, although I absolutely loved them in 1956, today we simply cannot avoid the simple truth: they weren't very good. Poor acting, cheesy sets, lousy lighting, tinny sound, horrible costumes, comical stunts, overbearing background music, amateurish plots, bad direction, clumsy staging......I mean, you name it. I found it an excruciating experience to get through a whole film. At least the 2013 Lone Ranger didn't show fists in plain view missing their target by feet.

    Let's face it, our memories are very short; I mean, they weren't called B-movies for nothing. And all the critics are lambasting Verbinski for not "being true to the original"? Why would you want to be true to that junk? No, I'm sorry, Maltin got it wrong. The new LR is no less than amazing by comparison, and in every single category. Everyone seems to have completely missed the concept that it is a tongue-in-cheek story about how the LR grew to become the man he was, told by an Indian with a somewhat exaggerated sense of story-telling. It worked for me, and how!

    In his appraisal, Maltin simply could not allow himself to be seen praising the current film in any way, especially after such a sycophantic performance with Moore's daughter. Little wonder we got such a slanted and negative view. For shame!

  • Bruce Lawton | August 2, 2013 10:35 PMReply

    One other little item re: the Hans Zimmer version of the "William Tell Overture" for this film. It isn't so much lackluster as specially arranged as scoring to be in the service of the sequence it's accompanying. It definitely is a tad bit slower and has real weight to it -- but that's clearly because it's chugging along with the locomotives. I've now listened to it (the soundtrack cut, "Finale") a dozen times or more and if you've seen the film, it reminds you of the sequence it accompanies rather vividly.

  • Bruce Lawton | July 31, 2013 3:09 AMReply

    I so loved this film (saw it twice!) and so couldn't disagree more with Leonard's pan of this film. I'm generally very 'old school' and really buck at what passes for cinema today. However, I found this to be a rare (today) grand entertainment - mostly old school (with nods to Buster Keaton, John Ford, Sergio Leone & Ennio Morricone) with CGI used only sparingly and selectively. It has tremendous heart (mostly due to the remarkable Johnny Depp) with a masterful balance of humor and adventure. The stylized period detail of the piece is breathtaking, the clothes, the sets, the trains and rails, the locations -- it must be a heartbreak to the artists both in front of and behind the camera that worked so hard to deliver such a heartfelt concoction. I personally mourn the fact that the film's rejection effectively closes the door on Depp revisiting and elaborating on his Keatonesque Tonto.

  • DAVID | July 22, 2013 12:40 PMReply

    TO MIKE S.
    I SAW YOUR ORIGINAL POST AND I AM GLAD THAT THERE ARE AT LEAST TWO OF US WHO SAW THAT IRONY. I WONDER IF THE WRITER AND DIRECTOR REALIZED IT.

  • DAVID | July 14, 2013 7:15 PMReply

    As a reviewer for our local paper, I panned this film to pieces. I was particularly displeased by the reversal of roles — hero and valuable companion. Then a few days later, I had a thought about that. The movie starts with a young boy in 1933 in a Wild West Museum, discovering an aged Tonto. This old Indian relates the events of 50 years earlier. Tonto is the hero and the Lone Ranger is a noble nitwit. Tonto saves the day in scene after scene. Well, who is telling the story? There were hints at a possible sequel. I closed my review with: "Please - Hi Ho Lone Ranger, Away!"

  • mike schlesinger | July 19, 2013 7:29 PM

    Which is exactly what I said three posts back.

  • john | July 9, 2013 7:26 PMReply

    See ..This Mov.ie online at T H E A T E R 1 5 . C 0 M.

  • John Tedrick | July 7, 2013 10:53 PMReply

    I have been a consistant audience for Mr. Maltin's reviews for several years now, and have bought the latest edition of his Movie Guide for the past few years. That said, I believe that Mr. Maltin's review is pretty damn weak. First off, as a professional critic, it's generally best to support your opinions with facts, and not just more snarling. Second, I try to look at films with a critical eye (my friends call me a snob), and I found this film to be funny, exciting, and very well staged and produced. The actors were all swell in their roles, and I found myself, as well as the whole auditorium, belly-laughing (a lot of this audience was composed of older folk,too; an audience never lies, I think). My only complaints were that the violence and the nasty villains were a tad much for tots (however, same goes for Jurassic Park), and I predicted the plot pretty quickly. These were small complaints, though, and overall, I thought it was a pretty fun little movie. I wasn't alone in this notion, and I believe an audience's amusement will always speak for a film's quality. I usually agree with you, Maltin. Not today,though.

  • mike schlesinger | July 7, 2013 9:11 PMReply

    Having now seen the film, I must say that every one of Leonard's criticisms is correct...yet I still dug the hell out of it. It really helps if you think of it as occurring in some sort of parallel universe a la "Lois & Clark," and it's vital to remember that it's a tale being told in flashback to a little boy by an elderly Indian whose life is almost over and whose people and land have been taken away. So he would naturally alter the tale to make himself the hero and the white man the goofball. As long as you keep that in mind, everything makes perfect sense.

  • Max Allan Collins | July 6, 2013 8:58 PMReply

    Leonard is dead on in his review, and maybe even generous. It's an endurance test, a tonal mess, and a film that makes GREEN HORNET look like a masterpiece. The basic problem is that the director and presumably the writers have no affection or respect for the source material. The director clearly wants to do ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE WEST, and maybe if you want to see THE LONE RANGER directed by Sergio Leone on a very bad day, you should consider taking in this misbegotten, misguided travesty.

  • JHK | July 5, 2013 3:16 PMReply

    I am to the point of wishing that producers, writers, directors and actors would just leave the the comic book, pulp magazine, OTR show and TV characters of the 1930's-1970's alone. These folks rarely capture the sense of fun and enjoyment that these programs brought to kids and adults alike. The list of failures goes on and on.....The Phantom, The Shadow, both Lone Rangers, the Green Hornet..............

  • lulabelle the rabbit | July 5, 2013 1:11 AMReply

    Gosh - I love Leonard Maltin...he NEVER gets it wrong! I gotta tell ya I went to see the Lone Ranger after waiting so long to see it. I forgot to check with Maltin, but at least I only paid $6.00 to see it. I was able to convince several friends going to a later show for $13.00 to forget it. This movie was so sad because it was so bad in so many ways. Like the Superman movie just released - what a blockbuster, grossly over done, violent rendition of my hero characters while I was growing up. When we hear that the toothfairy isn't real, well we adjust. Nothing too harsh there, but when our heros are dashed and drained of character and resort to violence to settle everything...well, that just is negative and undermining. I just lost a dear friend to a heart attack and in his circle and influence he was heroic and courageous. But, his life and influence was only a few hundred....to dash a hero who can affect millions....well that's just wrong. Spend this kinda money on backing up our heros....and perhaps our young people will take heart and do brave things in their lives.

  • Rick | July 4, 2013 9:09 PMReply

    All the negative reviews really got my hopes down for The Lone Ranger especially after the cinematic crime that was Man of Steel. However having now seen the film I have to respectfully disagree with Mr. Maltin (it happens, but not often) I found the film to be unbelievably entertaining. Johnny Depp was terrific as Tonto and Armie Hammer captured the charm of Christopher Reeve from the good Superman films.

    When the Lone Ranger makes his climatic ride and the William Tell overture kicks in on the soundtrack I had the biggest grin on my face. In that moment it perfectly encapsulated the joy of escapist entertainment and I was five years old again. A kid in the audience even shouted "Hi-Ho Silver! to the audience's delight.

    A highly underrated film. Go see it for yourself and decide.

  • alan aperlo | July 4, 2013 8:04 PMReply

    I Am with you This was BAD as thay make tham. TOOOOO! long at 149 mints. WOW I can see 5 L.R shows that move will. alan aperlo

  • Alex Julien | July 4, 2013 3:51 PMReply

    Wow I love this review! Thanks Leonard for being so blunt about how terrible this idea was. At least someone's getting the bad news out the public.

  • water | July 4, 2013 1:28 PMReply

    We saw the movie yesterday and is excellent. I do not understand your hate. This is the best movie of the summer. I do not know your secret agenda, but it is shameful that some “critics” give the wrong information to the public.

  • Elsie Theresa | July 4, 2013 12:16 PMReply

    One of the best movies I have been to in years.
    Do not believe the critics on this one, go and see the movie.

  • Big G | July 4, 2013 6:45 AMReply

    At least Wild Wild West had the decency to be over after an hour and 45 minutes. Lone Ranger is two and a half hours? Jeeez!

  • Daniel Delago | July 4, 2013 6:15 AMReply

    I understand now what the film doesn't get right. It's called "tone." The story is confusing because it jumps from serious Western to camp. I can't believe Native Americans aren't picketing this film. It really plays into the old stereotypes of Indians as blood-thirsty savages. By the way, did I mention there is a scene where a whole Indian tribe gets wiped out by Gatling guns? It's hard to watch and not entertaining at all. And if you're thinking about bringing the kids along, this is not a family movie. One of the villains cuts out a human heart and eats it. Pass the Chianti please!

  • midnitevow | July 3, 2013 10:31 PMReply

    I could not agree more with this review. What a huge letdown; this movie is a colossal farce. I saw the 1981 Klinton Spilsbury vehicle, and I daresay that was better than this. The Lone Ranger was no more heroic than Peewee Herman in any of his movies. This movie was a detestable mess.

  • Jerry Beck | July 3, 2013 8:57 PMReply

    Well, I've seen it. And I agree completely with Leonard on this. I do not recommend it unless you absolutely adored the Depp/PIRATES movies. It's not the "Lone Ranger". It's a riff on it. And on top of that, they sort-of make fun of all the things that The Lone Ranger is all about. This is another Classic Media mistake, the same as with Underdog, where they license a famous name property to make a quick buck - but have no respect for the underlying character, nor its fans. There are a few good moments, and great special effects - I'm not blind to its qualities. But its a poor western that can't make up its mind if its a straight film or a parody. They even blew a perfect moment at the end when a character could have asked "Who was that Masked Man"? Very frustrating - but I take solace that it will ultimately be forgotten (or a footnote) to the legend.

  • Norm | July 3, 2013 7:30 PMReply

    Anyone can make a film these days, not restricted to an 8 mm camera, the studios exploit "grandiosity" for their sake of survival, yet they don't realize all of the ramifications...
    Although I missed the "Legend of the Lone Ranger" with Clinton Spillsbury, does anyone remember what Actor played Tonto...it maybe a classic compared to this entree'...

  • Isafjordur | July 3, 2013 10:06 PM

    Michael Horse played Tonto in the 1981 movie with Klinton Spillsbury

  • Hank Zangara | July 3, 2013 6:20 PMReply

    Seriously -- is there no Native-American actor in the entire country who could have been as good a Tonto as Johnny Depp? Did Disney really need to resort to stunt-casting with blackface ... er, whiteface ... ? And where are the cries of outrage?

  • S. Thomlinson | July 6, 2013 2:18 PM

    Depp is actually French Huguenot from his father's side, who came to Virginia around 1800s and later relocated to Kentucky. Depp claims Cherokee on his mother's side, but so far--even Ancestry.com--has been unable to trace any Indian heritage. According to Indian Country Today Media Network (ictmn.com), the Cherokee Nation in OK says Depp has never tried to trace his heritage, although he keeps adding other tribes like Choctaw and Creek to the mix.

  • Frank | July 4, 2013 9:51 AM

    Depp is part Native American. Maybe a small % but it is in his ancestry. Just sayin'.

  • The Clintidote | July 3, 2013 7:42 PM

    You mean a real American Indian? I'm native American (I was born here) but I'd make a lousy Indian. And Depp was born in Kentucky but for some reason seems to prefer faking being French and pretending to be an Indian in this movie.

    It's a weird world, all right.

  • mike schlesinger | July 3, 2013 4:24 PMReply

    Sounds to me like they're doing the same thing THE GREEN HORNET did: make the hero a goofball and let the ethnic sidekick do all the heavy lifting. (And somehow Tom Wilkinson is in both!) Still, I'm going to see it, mainly because there are so few westerns today that I feel they all deserve support (and like Clu, I'm reserving judgment until I actually see it).

  • Clu | July 3, 2013 2:49 PMReply

    A lot of people are chiming in on Leonard's review without seeing the movie for themselves. I value Leonard's opinion but I'll watch the movie first before giving my 2 cents.

  • The Clintidote | July 3, 2013 7:43 PM

    That's what the producers desperately hope you'll do, quicklike, before the word really gets out. Hint: 23% Tomatometer after far more than 100 reviews. That's not accidental nor random.

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  • frank | July 4, 2013 9:53 AM

    Clu his review is dead on. I saw it last night and as a Lone Ranger fan, I am saddened.

  • raphael gouthier | July 3, 2013 12:58 PMReply

    i'm sure we all knew that !

  • raphael gouthier | July 3, 2013 12:53 PMReply

    lets face it, this film wasn't designed for intelligent people. it was simply made to entertain the young public. plain and simple,

  • James Knuttel | July 3, 2013 11:54 AMReply

    I've been waiting for your review of this movie, Leonard. Now that it's here I intend to watch "The Lone Ranger" today; i.e, I'm going to relax in front of my TV set and watch some episode of the old series starring Clayton Moore and Jay Silverheels. (Although, of course, after reading your review of this new movie the film from the 80s with Klinton Spilsbury might do.)

  • Jeffrey | July 3, 2013 10:31 AMReply

    I haven't seen Johnny Depp in anything really good for a while now.

  • Elsie Theresa | July 4, 2013 12:20 PM

    You have got to be kidding me. One of the best movies I have seen.
    It had humor and serious and action. Quite entertaining.
    Took me back to the series and my childhood. If you did not grow up with Lone Ranger, you would not understand the movie.
    Better than these vampires and people in steel costumes. Thank you very much.

  • Daniel Delago | July 3, 2013 8:25 AMReply

    I have to see it today just because it sounds like such a train wreck. I wish Depp would go back to doing smaller films where he really shows off his acting chops. He was great in 'Donnie Brasco' and 'Blow' for example.

  • jinju | July 3, 2013 5:07 AMReply

    Sounds like we have another Wild Wild West on our hands?

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