Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Moonlight Movie Reviews - The Lone Ranger



Okay,... here we go with this one...



You folks probably know by now that I'm a huge Disney fan. I mean, I love the stuff going all the way back to the 1920's, including the live-action stuff a lot of modern Disney fans don't even know about, from more popular titles like Pollyanna and Old Yeller, to the more obscure, like The Ugly Dachshund and the Unidentified, Flying Oddball. Ever since the 90's, though, Disney has been a mixed bag, even for me, especially in the live-action department. I mean, you have great films like The Adventures of Huck Finn, Hocus Pocus, Iron Will, and Pirates of the Caribbean (just rewatched the first one, and that movie is simply excellent). But, then you have your High School Musicals and Hannah Montanas, your Rock vehicles (though Race to Witch Mountain was pretty good) and your awful remakes (That Darn Cat, Shaggy Dog). There are tons of films that fall in both the good and bad categories since Disney got way too cocky after masterpieces like "The Little Mermaid", "Who Framed Roger Rabbit", "Toy Story" (which they didn't even make, really) and Honey, I Shrunk the Kids".With the success of Pirates, they got on a real "action/adventure franchise kick, which brings us the film I'm going to discuss today, "The Lone Ranger". And, I'm going to quickly mention two other films that this brings to mind for me. Why? Because the "Lone Ranger" has already been deemed a box office bomb. Like Disney's previous attempt to be a big, action/adventure franchise, "John Carter", which was a colossal bomb last year. In fact, this one is supposed to be a bigger bomb than that one was. And yet, I've heard from some people that John Carter was really a great movie. I haven't had a chance to see it yet, myself. However, I HAVE seen two other Disney attempts at mega-blockbuster franchises that were huge flops. One was Prince of Persia. Funny thing was, I remember really enjoying that one in theaters, as did the people I saw it with. I own it, but haven't had the time to put it on, but I recall it was a very enjoyable film. The other film that comes to mind was one of the many attempts in the past decade or so to dip into the Harry Potter franchise's success with movie series based on young reader book series. Disney did something a bit different. As I understand it, they DIDN'T base there attempt at capturing this sort of success on a book series. They went full on original with it. The movie was "The Sorcerer's Apprentice", starring Nic Cage and Jay Baruchel. I didn't see that one till I bought the blu-ray. As I recall, it was decent. But, it suffered from what a lot of these kinds of films suffer from. It was created with the intention of being the first in a series of films. It wasn't self-contained enough, like, say, Star Wars Episode 4. And, alas, we will never see second installments of films like Sorcerer's Apprentice, The Vampire's Assistant, Percy Jackson, etc... All fun little movies, though very similar in formula: Young person is recruited for a magical adventure, one super cute female always in tow. Goofy best friend optional. Anyway, it's too bad. Those movies were formulaic and didn't stand on their own without their further installments, but they were fun and I would have liked to see the further episodes. But, my point here is, a lot of movies flop, and for different reasons sometimes. It is not always because they are "bad movies". And yet, sometimes it is. And, more confusingly, sometimes the general public doesn't like them, but they still seem like good movies to me. Honestly, the Lone Ranger... It's a pretty good little movie.

Sorry, that was a lot of build up just to say that, but yeah, I liked it. I was excited for the film, not just because it was from the makers (and star) of Pirates of the Caribbean, not just because it was Disney, but also because it was "The Lone Ranger". I may be wrong, but I sometimes feel like the only Lone Ranger fan from my generation. When I was a little kid in the 80's, old TV shows like The Lone Ranger, Tarzan, etc... still got played all the time. And maybe it was because there weren't as many channels back then, at least not on my TV, but I watched 'em! I even had a great toy of the Lone Ranger and his horse, Silver. Big ones, like Mego toys. I remember I really wanted Tonto and Scout, too, but never got 'em. But, yeah, I was a real Lone Ranger fan at the time, when I was like 5 or 6, I guess, or maybe a little older. Besides that, a bigscreen movie came out in 1981, probably partly inspired by Superman's success. Of course, that one flopped too, but I always had fond memories of seeing it as a kid, even though I don't remember it well (it's supposed to be pretty bad, but I gotta get the DVD and find out). Now, one I sadly didn't see was the 2003 TV movie, which is suspected of being an unsuccessful TV series pilot. Apparently, Tonto had a hot sister in that one who was a love interest for this younger version of the character. I think it was on WB or something like that. Anyway, so I have some Lone Ranger fandom in me that I brought with me to see this new film, though I was also wary of the fact that they seemed to be pushing Johnny Depp's very weird take on Tonto too much. In fact, I had already seen other reviewers call it an awful movie, and "Tonto: The Movie", and stuff like that. Well, I was going to decide for myself, even though I wasn't overjoyed by some of Depp's more recent work (the guy can really be brilliant though).

Well, what we have here is, surprisingly, partially the traditional origin story of the Lone Ranger. He's a young lawyer who comes back to the old west, joins his Texas Ranger brother in a posse to hunt down the nasty Butch Cavendish and his gang, and ends up witnessing his brother's murder and vowing to bring him justice. He meets a Comanche named Tonto, dons a mask, and the two become old west crimefighters together (predecessors to the Green Hornet, incidentally; He is some sort of nephew to the Lone Ranger). Disney's version also adds to the plot by having a scheme involving the new railroad track running through Indian territory. To break the treaty and make this happen, the "Indians" are framed for attacking settlers, allowing for the cavalry to be brought in to wipe them out. This is tied in with the Cavendish situation and a silver mine that really stirred up all this trouble to begin with. There's a romance too, as the Lone Ranger, whose real name is John Reid, is in love with his deceased brother's wife and always has been.

That's the story. So, why did I like this movie when so many seem to hate it? Well, first, let me say why the others are claiming to not like it. There's a framing device in which a very old Tonto is telling this story to a little boy at a circus or fair or something (I forget) in 1930. I'm not sure why they hated this so, except that it was wholly unnecessary. There was an idea throughout the film that nature was out of balance. This allowed for some weird, quirky, seemingly supernatural stuff, like carnivorous herbivores and Silver, Lone Ranger's wild horse, being able to appear in some very strange places inexplicably, like up a tree. This was, again, unnecessary, and I guess it was too goofy for some. It was really just a bit of humor, and I was fine with it. I had no problem with the framing device either, but, again, totally unnecessary and probably would have been better without it. Some complain of the plot being lifted right out of Who Framed Roger Rabbit. Meh, yeah, but I didn't have a problem with that either. A Bug's Life has the same plot as Three Amigos. This happens all the time and it usually doesn't bother us. Another thing that bothers people is Tonto. Some say Johnny is just playing Jack Sparrow again. Some are just sick of his increasingly outlandish characters. I was concerned about whether or not I would like this Tonto too. Again, I would have preferred a more traditional take on the character, even if just the look of him, but it didn't really bother me much. I think the one thing that DID bother me a bit was what bothered everyone else the most too. The Lone Ranger comes to town as pretty much a "city slicker". He is no hero by any means. They use this as a comedic device through MOST of the film. He is just learning here, and he seems to have it near down by the end of the film, but yeah, he's a clueless wimp through most of the movie. Charming for other characters, but not what one wants from the Lone Ranger. I will admit, I wish they hadn't done this to THIS extent. I still enjoyed the film though. I even enjoyed these aspects of the film. It's just a shame that we won't get a sequel, because I think it could have been good and more what people wanted.

Aside from that stuff, there were only a couple of things that come to mind that I didn't love myself, and they were very specific issues with certain lines. I will commend this movie for staying true to the theme music. Yes, the William Tell Overture is played at least twice and at appropriate times, but there are same famous Lone Ranger catch phrases too, and those we didn't get. Well, we got, "Hi Ho Silver, Away!" at the very end, one time, but they make a joke out of it and it seems like he'd never say it again after that (upon Tonto's instruction). What REALLY got me though, was that instead of hearing the famous, "Who was that masked man?" question at some point in the film, we instead got this new line repeated, "What's with the mask?" This is clearly supposed to be a funny, running gag of a line, but... it just wasn't funny, so every time it was used again, it was more and more annoying.

And, truly, that's all the "bad" that comes to mind about this film, and like I said, most of it didn't bug me at all. This isn't as serious a take on The Lone Ranger as I probably wanted, and probably as others would have preferred, but in a lot of ways, it stays true to the original. I mean, the music, the basic origin story,... I didn't expect either and really appreciate them. They got a bit "out there" with the rest. The leads are more quirky and comical, the villains though, are pretty cool, and so what if a hokey western story based on a radio show from the 30's and a TV show from the 50's borrows part of the plot from Roger Rabbit? It works well in a western. This movie doesn't have big problems. It's not the train wreck others have called it. I LOVED "Man of Steel", but THAT movie had some big problems. This one really doesn't. It has fine performances, awesome action scenes, a serviceable story with some beefing up to make it different and fresh from previous Lone Ranger material, and it's full of fantastic visuals and music. I'm not sure exactly why people didn't go out to see it or didn't like it when they did. I had a great time watching it. There's enough of "The Lone Ranger" there for this to work as a Lone Ranger movie. Far more than Depp's turn at Dark Shadows. It's true that Tonto gets more focus here than Lone Ranger himself, and sure, they probably shouldn't have let that happen, but that doesn't mean it wasn't still a great, fun movie. So, maybe it WAS more of the Tonto movie, but it was still pretty cool! Maybe, if they'd made a sequel, the Lone Ranger could have been the one telling the story, and we'd then get more of his side of things. At any rate, I do recommend this fun, popcorn flick of a Lone Ranger movie. It isn't perfect, but it's a very good time! 

4 comments:

  1. Good review. It would have worked if it wasn't such a joyless bore that was meant to make the Lone Ranger heroic and tough, but at the same time, treat him like a dip-shit as well.

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    1. Thanks, Dan. I didn't find it to be joyless at all. Frankly, it was probably a lot more fun than if they had played it totally straight. I wasn't the least bit bored, either. Saw it a second time recently, though that was because I had a free ticket that time. True, they did make him out to be a dipshit as he was becoming the Lone Ranger, but despite his roots, he was basically coming into this hero job as a greenhorn college boy. I do feel that a sequel to this would have really picked up the slack in that regard, but too bad we'll never get to see one. It IS odd they touched on the Green Hornet movie's concept of making the hero a bit goofy, considering that was a flop too (and considering Green Hornet is Lone Ranger's nephew...). Of course, they could have gone all hardcore serious western with this, but I had fun with it, probably more than I would have the other way.

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  2. I really enjoyed it myself and thought it was better than Man of Steel. Maybe I expected more from Man of Steel, I don't know, but I was really looking forward to this movie and it pretty much lived up to expectation. It was fun and a solid western, but it also left plenty of room for sequels, which I would have loved to seen. I don't know why it got such bad reviews, myself.

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    1. I don't know if I thought it was better than Man of Steel overall, but maybe. Man of Steel had more and bigger problems, in my opinion. However, it is tough to beat finally seeing Superman kick butt on the big screen with no holds barred! While I can nit pick a few things with Lone Ranger, it was loads of fun, and whenever the classic theme music played, it was just amazing! Yeah, sequels to this I think would have been great. It's a shame any sequels will be HIGHLY unlikely now. I don't get all the hate for this movie either!

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