You can take Johnny Depp out of the “Pirates of the Caribbean” franchise, but you can’t take the “Pirates” out of Johnny Depp—and apparently, the same goes for Gore Verbinski and Jerry Bruckheimer, who teamed up to churn out “The Lone Ranger,” yet another Disney film that displays lazy and unimpressive filmmaking at its best.
In the film, John Reid (Armie Hammer), an uptight man of the law, goes back home to Texas. There, his older brother leads the Texas Rangers, who are on the trail of Butch Cavendish (impressively acted by William Fichtner), a gross, violent, unpredictable villain with a Hannibal Lector appetite.
During an ambush, Cavendish kills all of the Rangers, but Reid is the only one who miraculously survives. Meanwhile, the town sits at the helm of expansion as railroad tracks are being built across the country. However, the treaty between the white men and the Native Americans of the region is brought to the brink of collapse due to nefarious wheelings and dealings happening behind the scenes. Ultimately, Reid gets involved as the masked Lone Ranger and he and the Native American Tonto (Depp) must save the day.
Taken from the old-school radio and TV shows, the story of the Lone Ranger and Tonto comes straight out of a time when the bad guys lost and the good guys won, and there was no ambiguity or confusion. The golden-haired hero rode off into the sunset with not a thought of the racial implications of his sidekick or the moral complications of his actions. If there’s still a place for such a hero today, then it definitely isn’t in this Verbinski-Bruckheimer film.
The characters are strictly dropped into the categories of “good” or “bad.” Reid, who starts off spouting John Locke’s “Two Treatises of Government” and refusing to even hold a gun, is resurrected and becomes the unstoppable hero who still holds true to his morals and belief in justice. The sheltered, somewhat bumbling intellectual somehow, in the span of a very short time, magically becomes the perfect ranger who rides on trains and lassos villains—an action hero with the blockbuster stamp on his forehead. While Hammer’s Lone Ranger does share the original character’s iconic moral standards, his incorruptibility, invincibility and idealism, like many other parts of the film, is totally unbelievable.
Someone should have informed Depp that he is no longer playing Captain Jack Sparrow, because his Tonto is the “Pirates of the Caribbean” captain with much less wit and a lot more racial insensitivity. In a movie that is, in part, about the vilification and mistreatment of the Native Americans throughout history for the sake of “progress” ruled by the greed of what was dubbed “civilized society,” Depp’s whitewashed Tonto—complete with brown skin, broken English and Native American stereotypes—is offensive on several levels.
Helena Bonham Carter shows up as a random, insignificant character who seemed to be included just so Carter could guest-star in yet another bank-breaking film with Depp. Equally useless is the frame story used, in which an old Tonto tells his story to a child. The frame needlessly slows down the pacing of the film and tacks on some more unnecessary film time.
By the end of the movie, the action kicks into high gear and Verbinski has fun with the Lone Ranger tropes: the shooting, the furious riding, the runaway train, the damsel in distress and, of course, the epic theme music. However, the action sequences still feel way too familiar and predictable.
“The Lone Ranger” is an example of how much money Disney will shell out to create a bland, racially insensitive, recycled excuse of a film. In the film, John Reid as the Lone Ranger may be invincible, but Disney’s “The Lone Ranger” is a definite cinematic defeat.