Thursday, 15 August 2013

The Lone Ranger - The Review

By the time The Lone Ranger arrived on British screens, critics had practically written off this multi-million dollar Western.
The fact it cost so much money to make, and had not done incredible box office figures left many thinking this was the Western version of John Carter, a.k.a. a massive financial disaster.
However, the good news is TLR is a lot of fun - eventually.

The first act certainly isn't one of those feel good cinematic experiences.
Using The Princess Bride narrative technique (an old gentleman narrates his life story to a young listener), Ranger unfolds at a langorous pace.

Hammering the point home that this is the last of the Texas Rangers, we see how the eponymous hero gets to wear that mask, and ride that horse.
Naturally the buddy dynamic between TLR and sidekick Tonto forms the backbone of the movie.
Johnny Depp was the key figure instrumental in getting this film made, so little wonder he steals the show.

His Tonto is wonderfully enigmatic, but there is at least a reason for his eccentricity.
In fact there's a reason just about everyone does what they do in this film.
Sometimes we don't need to know everything about a character to be fascinated by them. Much of the mystique in a film like this stems from not knowing why the Injun sidekick has a dead bird on his head.

If there's a problem with the movie it's the fact the first two acts take ages generating a head of steam for the finale, like the locomotives which feature so heavily throughout.
Yes characters need to be established, and bad guys need to carry out disturbing acts so we root for the protagonist.

However, the sight of Butch Cavendish (William Fichtner) eating the heart of a key character is one of those moments where I think (the aptly named) Gore Verbinski went too far.
Okay, so you don't actually see a knife entering flesh, or see Cavendish eat the heart, but I can only imagine the psychological trauma that might cause younger viewers.

Then again, such gross out moments are what makes kids talk about movies. I doubt anyone would have gone to see Alien if it weren't for the chest burster moment; the buzz at school in 1979 was better than any viral marketing campaign.

So yes, it may be a little dubious in the graphic department, but that said, The Lone Ranger is a lot of fun once it gets going.

The epic vistas of Monument Valley, favoured by John Ford in his classic Westerns, are a fantastic sight on the big screen.

And it's good to see subtle reference to Jodorowsky's classic cult Western El Topo, especially in a Disney film.

This is perhaps Gore's best film since the original Pirates of the Caribbean 10 years ago, and while Armie Hammer playing second fiddle to Depp is a nice touch, it didn't need such a long running time or the army of extras. A leaner story with half the cast would have been just as effective.

On the plus side, Luther's Ruth Wilson is a magnetic screen presence, even if her generic heroine is just another damsel in distress.
It's an old fashioned epic with some brave licks on a well worn genre. Just a shame it takes so long to tell a slender story.

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