I've never been a big fan of western films, the very idea of it just never appealed to me. I think the only western film I ever liked was Wild Wild West (shut up, baby, I know it) and that's mostly just because I was a massive Will Smith fan when I was younger. Because of this I never really looked into anything about The Lone Ranger, I had vague knowledge of it being an old serial originally, and that Johnny Depp was in it. That was it. I never had any real plans to go watch it, but my dad is a big western fan having grown up in the genre's golden age so it was a fun father-son trip to the cinema. And I have to say, I was surprised.
The film starts off a bit weirdly in that we are in San Francisco in 1933, aka not the wild west in either time or place, and we're following a kid who I've seen enough posters to understand is supposed to be dressed up as the Lone Ranger. He's at a carnival and enters an exhibit about the old west. It's perhaps the most interesting exhibit I've ever seen in my life. Featuring stuffed buffalo, stuffed bears and a "noble savage in its natural habitat" (aka Indian, aka Native American, aka human who lived in America before Europeans). The kid is really impressed, and then the stuffed man starts to move and talk. No one else notices it, so either the kid is crazy, or talking exhibits was all the rage back in Frisco' '33. The man quickly turns out to be Tonto, the sidekick of the Lone Ranger and he starts telling this poor kid all about his life with kemosabe.
I really don't see the point of starting the story like this, having Tonto retell it (especially seeing how there are several scenes where Tonto isn't even present, he clearly isn't the main character). It could serve as a way of mystifying the audience on whether this is a true fictional event, or if he just made it all up and is coo-coo for kemosabe. It has more negative sides than positive ones: For starter it means that Tonto isn't going to die, it sort of cheapens the intense moments when you know that his life isn't at stake. Most of the time stuff like that doesn't bother me, but I can definitely see why others would be bothered, and it's a problem they didn't even have to have. They could've just told the story as it happens, the flashback really isn't necessary.
I'd say it's so that Johnny Depp is guaranteed to live on and not die, and hence be part of future money-making endeavors, but he's one of the few main cast members who hasn't already signed a multi-picture contract, so he can't be that interested in it.
Pfew, wow, that was a lot more ranting than I thought I had in me on the matter. Onward towards the actual story.
There is a lot of very stereotypical western things going on in the beginning, we have a bank robbery, a train chase, a prisoner on a train on his way to be hung, and a lot of men and women in either very fancy garments or pathetically filthy cloth. The beginning really is rather slow and down right boring at times, you know what is going to happen, and even I who've seen very few western start to pick up on tropes I've experienced through parodies and spoofs. I want to believe it is because the film itself actually is a parody or spoof and when I'm looking back at it it feels that way, but when I was in the theatre watching it I just couldn't enjoy it on that level. It didn't go far enough to become a real spoof, if it had just pushed its limits a bit further it would've been much more enjoyable at first viewing.
It builds up tension a bit here and there, but then it suddenly drops, I can't get a real grip on the dramaturgy, and while I was sitting there I wondered why it lasted over two and a half hours. They could've easily shed close to an hour off and still have a film, but maybe that is just because films these days -at least blockbusters- are expected to be two and a half hours and not the one and a half as I grew up accustomed to.
I never felt really concerned about either John Reid (the Lone Ranger) or Tonto, the only real emotional connection I had to them was linked more to the actors they were portrayed by. I think both Armie Hammer and Johnny Depp are excellent actors and this film would've been completely different without them. In fact, most of the characters seem more like shadows, they are there to serve a purpose and can't really act on their own. One of the antagonists is at first "portrayed" as a protagonist, but you just know that he's actually an antagonist. You've seen enough films to at a glance recognise every character's trope, and it leaves you never surprised at anything. Nothing is ever truly out of character. Now, don't get me started on the female characters, they are either scared and fragile and just need a man's love or they are hookers.There's no real middle ground. Yes, the hookers, at least the main one, is a strong character who fights for herself and doesn't need a man in her life. But did they really have to be hookers? I know there were a big demand back then, and it's accurate, but you could've made the non-hooker females a bit more deep and self-supportive.
This film's genre is supposed to be western comedy, but they only really got the western part right. I mean, there are moments you know are supposed to be funny, and I did hear people in the theatre laughing, but most of time it was just silence and muffled giggles. When and if I laughed I laughed more because others laughed, because I "had" to laugh, than because it was actually amusing. Yes, there are some lines and events that are genuinely funny, but I don't think any film in this day and age doesn't have those. Perhaps some of those super artsy school films, I don't know, I'm still catching up on those.
The worst part of the film, however, is just how amazing the last twenty-thirty minutes are. The ending to this film is phenomenal, and I won't go too much into detail -I want you to watch it on your own- but this is where the film really shows what it could've been. Almost everything I've complained about above is magically fixed. It's funny, it's exciting, I care for the characters! I don't know how it happened it just did.
This final sequence is enough for me to want a sequel, if they can make a sequel that is like that, it will be great. I could tell the audience with me was much more into that part as well, lots of gasps and laughs.
It's funny, no matter how many bad things I can think of regarding this film it still stands out as a positive film experience in my head. Looking back at it all as more of a parody than the serious film it sometimes tried too hard to be really improves it. It's just too bad that you actually have to watch it once and think about it to really appreciate it. But hey! Maybe I'm just really stupid and you see it as a parody right away, if you do, let me know what you think. Because I think it would be really good.