Last night I had the displeasure of sitting through “The Lone Ranger.” Now, I say displeasure not because it was a bad movie, but because it could have been a fantastic movie. If it knew what kind of film it had wanted to be. Comedy? Buddy action flick? It didn’t know and I don’t think the filmmakers did either…
The problems with the film started right away when I knew the move was going to be “narrated” by Johnny Depp in “old man” make-up (which never looks real, no matter how well it’s designed or constructed). He’s lost his mind (crazy old Indian) or has he? as he tells a youngster the tale of the Lone Ranger and Tonto. These moments, usually designed to give the audience a break from the narrative and action by offering insight into the mindset of a main character did nothing but slow the pacing, provide cheap laughs (more on that in a bit) and interrupt some really well acted and scripted dramatic moments.
The character of the Lone Ranger is what most would think of as a bit of a stiff one in today’s world, trading killing bad guys for bringing them to justice in a court of law. Personally, I like that. As screenwriters, with movies like Death Wish all the way up to Machete, we’ve taught our society that justice only comes from the barrel of a gun. That’s not always the case and this movie does a great job of capturing that core character sentiment in John Reid. But what this movie fails to do with all of the major characters is to place what could be seen as much needed levity by adding jokes and gags that destroys the core fibers of what makes them who they are. Each of the characters is dumbed down with stupid gags, pratfalls and sight jokes, crippling the believability of their later heroic actions and efforts. For instance, when we first meet John Reid on a train coming home after graduating law school, he helps a baby get her dropped dolly back. But instead of showing how caring he is by having him hand it back to her, we see what a buffoon he is when it gets unrealistically sucked out of an open window. Why do we need this? Reid’s all about the Law, not an imbecilic klutz, and to show him as such simplifies the character almost to a point of no return.
And Tonto. Weeeellllll… Let’s forget Tonto’s make-up and bird headdress (Depp is after all, Johnny Depp and must find a quirk in every character he plays. The truth is, the make-up is inspired by a painting of an Indian called “I am Crow” – Google it) but instead focus on the stupidity of the humor that is so obviously misplaced that it’s insulting. He goes from trusted friend (kemosabe in this movie means “wrong brother” not “trusted friend”) to insult slinging sidekick who isn’t even a necessity. Why must buddies all hate one another in these films? When did male bonding and brotherly friendship become bad?
To break up real emotional moments with humor does three things: 1. it shows the filmmakers didn’t believe in the truth they were trying to create with the emotion they were conveying, 2. it shows how stupid Hollywood thinks the general public is. No, you’re not allowed to feel sad, introspective or even pity because those are emotions most people are uncomfortable with so we’ll make you forget about the hundreds of DEAD INDIANS and place Silver on a tree wearing a hat, and 3. it proves Hollywood doesn’t trust the property they’re working with. Humor in films like Avengers comes from the archetypes of the character they’re working with. Tony Start is a smart-mouth who uses sarcastic humor to push people away because he’s afraid to let anyone get close to him because of abandonment issues. But the usually stoic Tonto is a very spiritual and serious character (especially in this film – not to spoil it) so the humor really does come out of left field and is wrong to say the least.
What’s worse is at certain times they even poke fun of the classic Lone Ranger elements, as if to say “Yes, we know these need to be in here, but they’re stupid and dated and so are you if you like them.” And it makes those of us who enjoyed and loved these types of films for just that, those moments, in essence calling us old and stupid. James Bond will never have gadgets again? Really? Hell, Batman STILL HAS a giant penny in the trophy room of the Batcave and that’s from the 50’s (it’s called an “homage”). See, what DC has been able to do with some of their characters (and I thank Geoff Johns for this one) is to look at those times nostalgically and say “yes, we had Batman and Robin in space with bubble helmets and jetpacks, but so what?” We’ve progressed with technology and science, so in certain issues Batman even shakes his head once in a while as if to say, “wow how did we survive those times.” That’s not making fun of it, but acknowledging to an older audience that we know they’re there and appreciate their continued support as we build a new fan-base. The 60’s Batmobile is STILL in the comic today.
It was storytelling for the period and those times are revered by a large number of people, where there was still innocence in the world and people looked up to heroes. But the filmmakers crap all over that here when Reid rears Silver back and shouts “Hi Ho Silver, away!” by saying to the audience that we’re old and stupid because Tonto pipes right up and tells him to “never do that again!” I was so pissed at that moment because it was shot so well and looked really cool, so when Tonto told him to knock it off, I felt as if it was the filmmakers telling everyone in the audience who was waiting for that iconic moment that your old, outdated and an idiot if you ever thought that was cool. It was really, truly insulting.
Technically, the film was shot well and really captured the feeling of the old west. Verbinski does a great job of transporting us back to the days of yesteryear, but is hampered with a great script sabotaged with misplaced comedy. The pallet is perfect, cinematography excellent, the acting solid and the effects flawless (well, for the most part. The exploding bridge was a brilliant practical miniature, but some of the comps were lack-luster and filled with blue-spill).
The humor just ruined it.
Instead of feeling the gravity of a situation and getting the emotional impact of a scene, we are immediately hit with a comedy hammer right across the face to as if to say “snap you out of it.” It’s a waste, as this movie (sans the stupid misplaced humor) is actually a good film and I would LOVE someone to edit the comedy out of the film for the most part – I’d buy that for a dollar!
D – DVD