When I saw that adaptation of The Lone Ranger was being made starring Jonny Depp, Armie Hammer and directed by Gore Verbinski, I couldn’t help but wonder whether a humorous western could really work with a young film audience who’ve being spoiled by huge Sci-Fi effects ridden blockbusters? Would the modern filmgoer still flock en masse to this type of film? Unfortunately, as US audiences have already proven, they won’t. But perhaps they should.
The Lone Ranger is re-envisioning of the classic TV series featuring the titular masked lawman, Tonto (his Comanche sidekick) and Silver (the horse). Here’s it’s been brought to us by the very family oriented director, Gore Verbinksi (Pirates of Caribbean, Rango and Mousehunt). Indeed, with Verbinski, Depp and producer Jerry Bruckheimer, it’s a bit of a Pirates reunion.
The plot is very easy to follow and sometimes too easy to predict. And it is definitely suitable for the younger audience. In 1933, an ageing Tonto retells the story of his legendary partnership with the Lone Ranger. Armie Hammer plays the Ranger, aka John Reid, who comes home after studying law, and quickly has to ride out with his brother to search for the outlaw Butch Cavendish. After an ambush, he is brought back from the brink of death thanks to Tonto and Silver (spirit horse), and then spends the rest of the film tracking the outlaws. That leads to greater evils and injustices against the Comanche tribes.
What makes the film work and seem very familiar is that all the main characters play people we are very familiar with. Depp is playing a toned down, sarcastic Jack Sparrow, while Armie Hammer (playing a role similar to that Brendan Fraser in The Mummy films) is plays the Lone Ranger exactly as he did the Prince in Mirror Mirror. Helena Bonham Carter plays yet another quirky madam (a la Les Miserables, Sweeney Todd and Alice In Wonderland), and to top it all another Brit is playing the role of villain, this time Tom Wilkinson.
Where this film works is that while there are plenty of special effects, you don’t feel tricked by them. The train chasing scenes with Silver all somehow feel believable, even though we know they are not. The film is a hefty at two and a half hours long but with stunning, sweeping landscapes fused with a good old fashioned Cowboys vs. Indians scenario, along with excellent chemistry between the stars, it does feel shorter.
I also enjoyed the nods to the original TV series, which I had long forgotten. Included are things such as the William Tell Overture, Hi Ho Silver and the term kemosabe, which has been altered humorously to match the sarcasm of Tonto.
Overall Verdict: While Love Ranger has proved a tough sell in the US, with some questioning its relevance, ultimately good old fashioned storytelling is timeless! As it unfolds, the script is tight, the characters develop well and the dialogue is quirky. So whilst this summer we’ve been inundated with Superhero movies, Robots and Monsters battling it out at the box office, treat yourself to this delightful family romp.
Reviewer: Stephen Sclater