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Movie Review: The Lone Ranger
Prerequisites for a summer blockbuster these days seem to include either one, or a collection of, the following: a superhero outfit, robots, spaceships, animated characters – preferably in 3D, a number in the title, an apocalyptic theme. Oh and did we mention a superhero outfit? We did? Oh.
What you're less likely to see on that list are two men on a horse. It sounds more like a set-up for a joke than an actual premise for a summer flick, but somewhat undeterred by the current trend, Disney went and made it anyway. The result? The Lone Ranger.
It's 1933 and a young boy, dressed as a cowboy, is enjoying a fair in San Francisco. He's attracted to a tent with the sign outside stating it's a Wild West exhibition, so decides to pop in. There he comes across a very old American Indian, who begins to tell him the story of his life.
The story begins in 1869, at the dawn of the iron rail which is making its impact on the wild plains of western states. He tells a tale of how he, a young Comanche by the name of Tonto (Johnny Depp), came across a pale face, John Reid (Armie Hammer). They joined forces in a bid to track down a merciless killer by the name of Butch Cavendish (William Fichtner) and his treacherous men. Tracking them across the west soon turned into the wildest of adventures.
You have to feel sorry for Johnny Depp – well only a tad – for it seems an audience only warms to him when he portrays a character as more of a caricature. It's certainly his roles where he's covered in make-up, or in a costume that's pretty much fancy dress, that he'll be remembered for, and certainly not any of his more straight roles.
His take on Tonto is yet more visual pantomime for him to revel in. He's taken a fair amount of flack for it, as he has the audacity to not be an actual American Indian. It seems that many forget that acting is, after all, just pretend; not much was made when Robert Downey Jr. blacked up for his role in 2008's Tropic Thunder, despite not being African American, and Cate Blanchett was generally lauded for her performance as Bob Dylan in 2007's I'm Not There, despite not actually being a man.
In his portrayal of Tonto who, it should also be mentioned, is a fictional character, Depp has once again create a warm and curious character; certainly not one that should cause offence to American Indians in any way.
The film may well be an expensive summer blockbuster, but at the heart of it is film about the development of a relationship. It's a story of two different men, united by one cause, who after a period of conflict, eventually become firm friends. Hammer and Depp do well to realise this on-screen friendship, that blossoms sweetly before our eyes.
Director Gore Verbinski (who also directed Depp in the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise) allows this friendship to play out against the beautiful back drop of the old west. It is a landscape that replaces green screens with beautiful blue skies. That's not to say the film has no digital pokery going on behind the scenes, as a few well-executed action set pieces testify to, yet there's no denying the film's respect for John Fords' vision of the West throughout.
And while Hammer and Depp (who sound like they would have made a great electro duo in the eighties) spend time buddying up, Fichtner gives a strong account of himself as the main villain of the piece. Also, Ruth Wilson and Helena Bonham Carter do well in making their female characters more than just your archetypal heroines.
The always reliable Hans Zimmer has also produced yet another rousing score, one that also includes a certain overture linked to the masked hero.
It is a little bloated in places, but even coming in at just ten minutes shy of the three hour mark, The Lone Ranger does enough to entertain throughout. It's also surprisingly violent, especially for a Disney film, yet it's hardly depicted in an over-the-top fashion, so shouldn't shock the younger audience.
Although he may well wear a mask, the fact that The Lone Ranger is no superhero, may well mean that his adventures might be overlooked by most, which would be a real shame.
Verbinski's stab at reviving the western, with its balanced blend of action, characters, story and glorious setting, should be commended, making it a splendidly fun ride.
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