Being on holiday in Canada, I had the opportunity to see The Lone Ranger a few months earlier than I normally would have, and I considered myself lucky for having this opportunity. After seeing the film and walking out of the stuffy and dirty cinema, I considered myself a sacrifice for my friends, and the many cinema lovers in Britain. I had to get back; I had to warn them not to ever see this film. Between its bizarre tonal changes, confused and maddeningly stupid plot, or its downright ludicrous performance by Johnny Depp as a Captain Jack Sparrow/Indian hybrid, The Lone Ranger stakes a claim for the worst film of the year.
Ten years in the making, with a budget of around $250 million, The Lone Ranger is an adaptation of the much-loved radio and television show of the same name, which followed two vigilantes of the Wild West, the Lone Ranger and the Indian Tonto, who fought for justice in a villainous land. In comparison to the new adaptation, the original television show took eight years to make two hundred and twenty-one episodes, which is two years less than this steaming pile of spirit- horse turd took to get out of production and onto the big screen. They may as well not have bothered and saved the losses; as it stands Disney is set to lose over $100 million over The Lone Ranger, and with good reason too. The film is a mess of astronomical proportions; it attempts to be both a slapstick comedy while also using gratuitous violence to shock the audience, and even the film itself appears to be confused about which genre it is tackling, and what audience it is being aimed at. This is a problem The Lone Ranger shares with the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise, and it is no surprise to see that they also share a director, Mr Gore Virbinski. Here lies the problem; while the first Pirates of the Caribbean was a brilliantly entertaining kid’s movie, the later films greatly suffered from problems in tone and catastrofically misjudged scenes. If Disney wants to make The Lone Ranger a franchise, they are in big trouble, because this has already developed the huge problems the later Pirates films suffered from. It has none of the charm or wit that the original Pirates film did, and the advertising campaign that is endlessly comparing them is a huge mistake from Disney. Ironically, what exactly what the Lone Ranger needed was to be less like Pirates, and get rid of the inclusion of a ‘Jack Sparrow’ type character. Herein lies the second problem: Johnny Depp.
Depicting Johnny Depp’s ‘Tonto’ as a stereotypical crazy cryptic Indian is one thing, but to then ask Johnny Depp to play Captain Jack Sparrow with a crazily bad Indian accent is an extraordinary act of stupidity by the director and the writers. Forget about shooting themselves in the foot, Gore Virbinski and Disney have committed Hari-Kari with this incredibly distasteful representation of an Indian. “Look!” we are supposed to laugh. “The Indian speaks nonsense that sounds wise, and sometimes doesn’t have very good grammar! How hilarious and accurate!” Unsurprisingly, some people around me in the cinema were laughing at the character even when Tonto didn’t say or do anything that was supposed to be funny. I am getting fed up of Johnny Depp playing the same character again and again; in his early films, such as What’s Eating Gilbert Grape?, he displayed a good range of acting skills and emotions. Since the original Pirates of the Caribbean, Johnny Depp has decided to stick with the pretty naff Keith Richards impression, and it is unbearably grating and tedious to watch. His only saving grace is that his fellow actors are as tragically miscast as he is, with the exception of William Fichtner who plays a more than adequate villain. Armie Hammer is the man studios are desperately trying to force down our throat, but he wasn’t ready for this kind of role. He certainly has comic timing, but during the more emotional scenes he has all the appeal of road kill. The most tragic and saddening casting is the incredibly talented Ruth Wilson as the stereotypical damsel in distress, who is underwritten and underdeveloped, screaming a lot and constantly needing a heroic and charming man to swoop in and chuckle at her idiocy before sweeping her off her feet. It is such a bland and almost pathetic performance from her; her superb performance as Alice Morgan from crime series Luther is nowhere to be found here, and it is a shame to see a woman with so much talent play such an insulting role in such an insulting movie. Hopefully she can bounce back from this misstep, and really shine in cinema.
I cannot deny The Lone Ranger has a certain element of fun towards the end, with the original show’s theme tune getting blasted out for a good ten minutes while a well choreographed and well-directed final battle gets underway, but the problem is this reasonably entertaining scene takes a full 2 hours and 15 minutes to get to. The Lone Ranger has a moment when it feels like an ideal and natural point to end, and then half an hour later it has another moment where the film should naturally end. Then we have another hour until it finally ends. What fun could and should have been taken from that final scene grates slightly, because the film has overstayed its welcome to the point of absurdity. What doesn’t help the length is a bizarre and entirely unnecessary narrative device in which a very old Tonto is telling a young kid about his adventures with the Lone Ranger. This adds at least fifteen to twenty minutes to an already long movie, and that is even more of a drag when you consider this narrative device doesn’t even work (Tonto tells the kid about a lot of events that he wasn’t present at; a highlight of the writers’ laziness). When you then consider some of the more unnecessary characters that are written in so that the actor can make a quick buck (Helena Bonham Carter, I’m looking at you), the film could easily have had an hour taken off it without making it any less enjoyable.
The final battle is reasonably enjoyable, largely thanks to the theme of the original show playing over the top, and this at least gives the previous two and a quarter hours some kind of meaning. However, it is far little too late to save the film.
Surprisingly, Johnny Depp’s horrendous performance as Tonto is actually overshadowed by the director’s inability to balance and stabilize a tone throughout the film. We have a scene where jokes about crazy horses and Indians are being tossed around, and a few minutes later the baddie is eating the heart of a human corpse. In doing this it is far too adult for children, but far too childish for adults.
The Lone Ranger is the ‘John Carter’ of 2013, and Disney’s latest financial disaster. It deserves to be a flop too: not only does it steal your money by recycling Pirates of the Caribbean (this time, in the wild west!), it is also lazy and sloppy filmmaking, miscasting nearly every actor and totally misunderstanding the intended target audience. It is messy, it is pretty offensive, and it is the worst film of the year so far. Mind-bogglingly dreadful.