Wednesday, 29 January 2014

The Lone Ranger

Brought to us by the same team behind the hugely popular Pirates of the Caribbean series, The Lone Ranger aimed to start a new franchise, something quite similar to what Pirates achieved. The Lone Ranger was absolutely plagued by delays in filming, delays that ultimately forced to studio to film Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides first, despite The Lone Ranger being planned to be made before that. With costs of The Lone Ranger rising even more and investors holding back on cash, the director and most of the cast took a pay cut. 

After huge delays, a skyrocketing budget and concerns about Johnny Depp playing a Native American character, The Lone Ranger was released to a bloody mauling by critics. They hated it, and as it stands right now it holds a 31% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. It flopped at the box office too, and after taking marketing costs into account Disney were expected to lose around 150 million. So, when this popped up on my radar to review, while I always keep an open mind, I expected it to be pretty crap. However, not only was I surprised that I enjoyed it, but found it to be one of the best films of 2013.


The Lone Ranger started its humble beginnings as a radio play in 1933, and due to popularity moved into the realm of books and a widely known TV series, which itself spawned sequel films such as Lone Ranger And The Lost City Of Gold. The latest adaptation tells the origin story of The Lone Ranger and stars Armie Hammer as John Reid aka The Lone Ranger, and Johnny Depp as Tonto, a Comanche Indian and sidekick to Reid.

After Reid is ambushed and left for dead alongside other Rangers including his brother, his body is taken by Tonto who- after witnessing a white spirit horse- deems Reid to be a “spirit walker”, someone who has been brought back from the dead for a reason, and a person who cannot be killed. Now, wearing a black mask and Tonto at his side, the immediate story deals with Reid’s vow to exact justice on his brothers murderer, yet a greater, more devious plan emerges, one that threatens the very future of the United States of America.

The first hurdle to any “buddy movie” is if the duo plays well off each other. If the film doesn't have that it just falls apart. Thankfully both Armie Hammer and Johnny Depp have fantastic chemistry in The Lone Ranger, which throughout is pretty a love/hate relationship. Tonto demands a more immediate and brutal kind of justice, while Reid, due to his history as a lawyer, wants a more civilised approach. This duality goes on throughout the film, and alongside their constant bickering and banter makes for a great team.


Hammer brings a wonderfully slightly buffoonish yet completely capable Lone Ranger to the screen, while Depp's Tonto is surprisingly nicely fleshed out with a back-story that explains his odd behaviour. This is all topped off by the fact that the story is told from the perspective of an aged Tonto in 1933. These scenes in which he's remembering his adventures with the Lone Ranger and his homeland that at this point has been completely changed, ends up being quite sweet and an excellent bookend to the film.

The Lone Ranger is packed full of action too. From the opening scene in which Reid and Tonto are chained together on top of a runaway train, to the final action set piece that features the classic William Tell Overture (The classic Lone Ranger theme) playing over it, the film is absolutely thrilling from start to finish. In fact, the last chunk of the film had me absolutely nailed to my seat, and the charming, fun and the almost Buster Keaton-esque action had me grinning from ear to ear. What can I say, I absolutely loved it and for me falls into the same category as films like The Mummy, Avatar and Waterworld - a harmless, epic and hugely enjoyable adventure. Yes, it's a bit too long and the plot gets slightly muddled near the end, but it's still a lot of fun.


Another thing I must say is that while I know CGI was used in the film, I'd say 90% of what I saw on screen was real sets, real locations and practical effects. The film looks stunning and the makers really must be congratulated on producing a film that looks so damn authentic. From the absolutely excellent design for Tonto to some of the more grand and lavish sets, The Lone Ranger isn't one of those modern blockbusters that smoothers the audience in CGI. The best part about this is that it's so noticeable, and you'll walk away from the film feeling the difference between The Lone Ranger and, say, the CGI overkill of Thor: The Dark World.

I walked away from The Lone Ranger gob smacked. This was the film that critics tore apart? Damn. This is the kind of film that hits home the fact that even before it was released, critics already made their mind up that The Lone Ranger was shit. That's not fair at all. The Lone Ranger is a film packed with imaginative action, style, great performances, stunning visuals and a breath-taking score from composer Hans Zimmer. The worst part about it is the fact that we won't get a sequel, but at least we'll have this. Yep, colour me very surprised.

The Lone Ranger rides heroically into the sunset with an 8.5/10.

Denis Murphy


The Lone Ranger at CeX



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