Tuesday, July 2, 2013

The Lone Ranger or Captain Jack Sparrow Goes West.....

   Westerns are a tough sell to the movie  goer in this generation. Young Guns worked for those of us who grew up in the late 80s and 90s, Unforgiven and True Grit won academy awards, but there are countless others who aren't very memorable. It's a genre for a different generation. Disney is making the attempt now. They have gambled and lost on things like John Carter, but with the team that brought you Pirates of the Caribbean we are saddling up for a ride through the old west.

   I am admittedly not very familiar with the characters. I know the television series was extremely popular and so was it's star Clayton Moore. I have some memory of my late grandfather being a fan and even taken a VERY young me to see the 1981 version of this movie, but I have never revisited the film. The Lone Ranger is a hero of a different time. A time when westerns were much cooler than today and the world was a much simpler place.

   Jon Reid is a lawyer returning to Colby, Texas in a very lawless time. Outlaws are everywhere and Butch Cavendish is one of the most dangerous. An early encounter with an Indian prisoner, a train prison break, and typical drama is how we begin. Reid and his brother are reunited and venture out to bring the outlaw Cavendish to justice. Jon and his brother are among a team of Texas Rangers who are betrayed and killed by Butch. Tonto is shocked to find Jon among the living and convinces him to avenge his brother and hunt down Cavendish. Throw in some gunfights, horse play, political scheming and you have a Disney western.

  The movie is a big production. It was plagued inflated budget rumors. There were also rumors of a battle with werewolves and other things supernatural. Disney is believed to have eliminated this part of the story after John Carter failed to find audiences. If you pay attention you can see signs of this part of the story. Like they did in Pirates, the world around John and Tonto is created very well. The trains and gunfights are fun to watch and the movie seems vaguely familiar, but still fun to follow.

  The supporting cast is where The Lone Ranger is weakest. The romance between Hammer and Wilson never feels right. We never really get enough back story. There are elements of family and tension, but they are barely addressed. You will probably recognize some of the outlaws from their time as part of a pirate crew, but it still plays well. Tom Wilkenson is a great villain, but not nearly ruthless enough. His character is the one that is probably the most predictable. The film has a few villains, but only one is done justice.

William Fichtner is great as Cavendish. The look is amazing and he is evil as much as a Disney Outlaw can be. He is a bit gross at times and comical as well. He plays Cavendish as a loose cannon and you know right away that he is a bad guy and one you shouldn't mess with. His character looks like he was meant to be more supernatural, but had that cut. What's left is still very entertaining and one of the movies highlights. He isn't quite as good as the Pirate's villains, but he pulls his weight none the less.

  This movie is about the leads. Depp and Hammer really hold the film together. They have great chemistry and it really works well throughout the film. Hammer's Reid is naive and honorable and holds his ideals very close. He spends the majority of the movie in conflict with Depp's Tonto. This is what I am told is very different from the original. Different can work and it does here.  Hammer looks the part even despite people disliking the color change of his suit. The film is called The Lone Ranger, but it is all about Tonto. Johnny Depp owns this movie. He plays a Tonto that you never really know whether is crazy or not. His Tonto is quirky much like Captain Jack Sparrow, but he is definitely Tonto and not Captain Jack goes west.

   It is a film that was plagued with negative rumors. One of the leads is virtual unknown. Westerns are not typically popular choices these days. All of those are reasons to doom a film. I am happy to say that it's not the case here. The Lone Ranger is fun, witty, and packed with a decent amount of action. Depp and Hammer have done a good job of reinventing old characters for a new generation.
I hope it does enough to merit a sequel. In a movie world full of super heroes, space ships, and zombies, I would have no problem saddling up for another ride into the old west.

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