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As soon as I heard about this movie being made, I realized that it was going to be a financial flop! Why did I think this? Well, 2 reasons:
1) The last two attempts to make a movie based on this radio series character from the 30’s were unsuccessful. And if they were unsuccessful in the years 1981 and 2003, I really didn’t see a 2013 film behaving any differently.
2) This film kept getting pushed back due to budget concerns and that’s almost never a good sign.
Nevertheless, Disney thought that they could make a profit with this film and even went so far as to secure their beliefs by casting one of their biggest stars, Johnny Depp, in the film. Yet, the film still flopped!
But does that mean that the film is no good? Well, let’s find out! (10 points to people who read this review while wearing a mask!)
And remember, SPOILERS AHEAD!
The film opens up in the year 1933 to a fair in San Francisco with a Wild West-themed sideshow. A young boy named Will, played by Mason Cook, is seen inspecting it and enjoying the statues of bison, bears, and even the noble savage.
All of a sudden, this happens!
Yep, apparently, the noble savage isn’t a statue at all, rather an old man posing as one for pay…I’m assuming. The old man notices that Will is dressed as the Lone Ranger and begins to tell Will the true story of the Lone Ranger and his Native American partner, Tonto, whom he claims to be.
Tonto, played by Johnny Depp, begins his story in Colby, Texas in the year 1869 on a train.
Tonto is being held as a prisoner in one of the train cars along with another outlaw, Butch Cavendish, played by William Fichtner. Butch is an outlaw who’s done it all: killed “Injuns”, robbed people, ate out body parts out of his victims, and is just an awful guy whom you feel uncomfortable around and William Fichtner portrays this quality of Butch’s perfectly!
The two of them are being transported via train to the next city to pay for their crimes. Butch has been sentenced to die via hanging for his crimes and Tonto…well…his punishment seems to be just incarceration. But before they arrive at their destination, Butch manages to break free by retrieving a hidden gun from underneath one of the floorboards of the train
and shoots the lawmen who have been assigned to guard him and Tonto. As this happens, Butch’s gang of rowdy horsemen ambush the other cars of the trains and starts stealing what they can from the passengers while threatening them and even killing the drivers.
When the train passes its destination, a group of Texas rangers, led by Dan Reid, played by James Badge Dale, realizes that there’s trouble aboard and gets on their horses to catch up with the train and stop the thieves.
Dan’s lawyer brother, John, played by Armie Hammer, also happens to be on that same train and manages to break into Butch’s car before he shoots Tonto dead. Sadly though, John merely brings in an ax and this scene ends with Butch escaping to freedom with his gang after having chained Tonto and John to each other.
Luckily, John and Tonto break free from this…so many deus ex machinas…and run atop the train as Dan and his Rangers board. They then uncouple the cars from the locomotive to keep the passengers safe, whilst the locomotive derails almost killing John and Tonto, but since they’re the stars of this movie, they survive!
Wow, a nigh half-hour long action scene opening! You can see where the budget and nigh 2.5-hr runtime of this movie went!
John then takes Tonto into the town jail (as Tonto was a prisoner aboard the train) where he meets his brother’s wife, Rebecca, played by the TOTALLY NOT BRITISH Ruth Wilson!
At least she doesn’t have that frightening face as before!
Anyway, we learn that Rebecca and John were actually lovers once upon a time until Rebecca married John’s brother, Dan, for…some reason never explained. It’s obvious that they are happy to see each other and even though Dan is out of town for a lot of the time on Ranger duties, you can still see that he and Rebecca don’t really have any hatred for each other in their marriage.
We then learn that Dan and his group of Rangers are going out on the trail AGAIN, this time to re-capture Butch Cavendish and his gang for the crimes that they committed. They’re even encouraged to find the criminals by Mr. Cole, a railroad tycoon, played by the TOTALLY NOT BRITISH Tom Wilkinson.
I should mention that Colby is a town that’s undergoing a massive transcontinental railway project headed by Mr. Cole. The purpose of this is to unite the entire United States via rail and get from destination to destination as quickly as possible.
Back to the story, Dan even invites John to come along with them by making him an honorary Ranger. John accepts, but refuses to carry a gun.
So they travel through the Western landscape for days until they come across a pass in between some mountains where they suspect Butch and his gang might be hiding. After having one of their men go ahead and check for safety, they then head into the pass…where they’re immediately ambushed by Butch and his gang.
All the rangers die, except for John who is knocked out unconscious and presumed dead by Butch and his gang. As Butch and his gang leave the scene, Tonto appears and starts to bury the dead Rangers. Now you may be wondering to yourself, “How did Tonto escape from the jail?”. And that’s a very good thing to wonder! Even little Will asks this to the old Tonto as he’s telling the story. And the old Tonto replies with this:
Yep, he doesn’t reply! The writers probably were having a serious case of writer’s block at this moment and decided to just follow the good ol’ deus ex machina style that they’ve been using so prominently in this film!
Anyway, Tonto buries all the Rangers except for John whom he realizes isn’t dead. That’s when a white horse appears at the foot of John’s proposed burial plot. In Tonto’s Comanche culture, the white horse represents a spirit horse: a creature able to denote someone who has “been to the other side”. So when the horse appeared at John’s burial plot, it signified to Tonto that John is a Spirit Walker: a man who has “been to the other side” and can’t be killed in battle. This annoys Tonto as he doesn’t really like John, but one can’t argue with a spirit horse.
Once John regains consciousness, Tonto tells John about all this and after some hesitation, they decide to team up. Tonto has been seeking Butch for 26 years and John wants revenge on Butch for killing his brother and the other Rangers. They decide that since everyone believes John to be dead, he should remain dead and walk with a disguise…a mask, to be precise. And this is the birth of the Lone Ranger and the beginning of his
friendship partnership friendship/partnership with Tonto.
As they go and try to find Butch and his gang, the long-standing peace between the Indians and the white folk has been breached as sides have attacked each other. The Comanches blame the white men for attacking first and the white men blame the Comanches. Regardless of who started the fighting, both sides continually plan and lay attacks on the other.
It’s not long before John and Tonto are captured by some angry Comanches while on their search for Butch and his gang. After meeting with the Comanche leader, John learns about Tonto’s backstory. When Tonto was young, he came across two brothers, white men, who were injured. After he and his tribe nursed them back to health, the brothers noticed that the village had silver and asked Tonto to show them where the silver came from. After showing them a mountain filled to the brim with silver, the brothers then left and returned killing every member of Tonto’s tribe. Since then, Tonto hasn’t been 100% mentally stable and has been trying to find those two brothers for revenge. It’s implied that Butch Cavendish is one of the brothers (as Tonto has been chasing him for 26 years)…but who can the other be?
John is sympathetic towards the story as well as to the Comanches, but that doesn’t stop them from leaving Tonto and John to die by burying them in the sand while they go and wage war on the white men. Luckily, Tonto and John are saved by the spirit horse.
After escaping, they find Butch Cavendish at the silver-laced mountain and manage to get the better of him. Tonto wants to kill Butch, but John insists that they take Butch back to town to be tried as per the law. Tonto doesn’t agree with this, so John knocks him out and takes Butch back to town himself. He catches up with one of Mr. Cole’s stopped trains and lays Butch right at the feet of Mr. Cole.
As Mr. Cole treats John to a long-awaited meal as a reward, he begins talking. And as he continues to talk, John realizes the frightening truth: Mr. Cole is Butch Cavendish’s brother and both of them have been after the silver mother lode for years. Butch has been trying to get it with his gang, while Mr. Cole has been constructing train tracks to go straight into the mountain to make hauling the silver pieces easier. Butch’s gang also pretended to be Comanches and attacked white folks to make it look as if the Comanches broke the treaty. All of this worked into Mr. Cole’s evil plan…somehow.
But, before John can do anything, Mr. Cole, Butch, and the US Cavalry (whose leader is also working with Mr. Cole) capture John and put him to die by firing squad. Thankfully, Tonto arrives in time to save John and take him away while the Cavalry busy themselves with fighting off the approaching Comanches whom we saw earlier.
The next day during the unveiling of the completed train line, Mr. Cole stages a financial takeover of all his fellow “business partners/shareholders” and declares himself the sole owner of the railroad company. And literally the next 20-30 minutes is a LONGGGGGGG action sequence with the Lone Ranger and Tonto fighting off Mr. Cole, Butch Cavendish, and the US Cavalry leader on runaway trains all while the Lone Ranger theme music (aka the William Tell Overture) plays over and over again in the background!
The movie ends much as you’d expect it would with the US Cavalry leader, Butch Cavendish, and Mr. Cole dying, Rebecca and John falling in love again, John and Tonto riding off into the desert, the old Tonto packing up as the fair closes for the night, and young Will having an even higher admiration for the Lone Ranger!
Oh, and if you’re wondering why I didn’t mention anything about the TOTALLY NOT BRITISH Helena Bonham Carter being in this movie, it’s because her character is barely in it and isn’t all that important in my opinion.
So to answer the question in the introduction: The film isn’t much good.
I know that many people have said that it’s not as bad as people make it out to be and that it’d be seen as a cult classic in the future years, but I personally find too many problems in the movie to make it likable. The film is too darn long, the action sequences are too darn long and stretched out, the plot can get quite hard to follow or even not make much sense, etc.
But, does that mean that everything’s bad? No. The acting is pretty good and enjoyable, the special effects/CGI are great fun to watch, and the music (especially the theme song) can keep you invested. But besides that, this film is better left to remain in the memories of those who watch it and not in any Hall of Fame dedicated to films.
(You can click on the image below for an enlarged version of my rating sheet.)
So, the final score for this film is 23/35 = 65.71% (D) !
The next review will be posted on July 7th.
9 thoughts on “The Lone Ranger (2013)”
Never saw it….neither do I know anything about the original series…must be an American thing….
Yep, it’s quite a true-blood-American thing…and I barely know about it. Then again, I am a first generation American.
I never did get around to seeing this one. Sounds like I’m not missing out on too much.
No you’re not, in my opinion.
Thanks for reading and commenting!
I still haven’t seen this movie yet. The television show was good, but after hearing the lukewarm reviews of the movie, I was not going to rush to waste my money. I have Amazon Prime, so if this movie is available for free, I may check it out.
Yeah, check it out for free.
You know, it’s going to sound weird coming from me, but I actually kinda like ‘The Lone Ranger’. Don’t get me wrong, I realize it’s not a very good film on the whole; it has serious pacing problems and a number of jokes and character beats that don’t work at all, but on the whole I enjoyed it as the bizarre yet entertaining wild west ride it was probably meant to be. Perhaps having low expectations helped out a lot as I did see it recently on Netflix, especially considering all the bad buzz it was getting on release, but when I saw it I didn’t quite see it as this loathsome monstrosity that everyone had united against. Despite all that, I never forgot it and revisited it two more times on Netflix and started revising my thoughts on it.
I can even answer a few of your questions with the plot; “How the heck did he manage to hide a gun underneath one of the floorboards of the train that he’d be riding on to get hanged without the lawmen seeing?” – I think it was Mr. Cole who left that gun there for the express purpose of his brother locating it and staging an escape, obviously the first part in a meticulous plan.
“Rebecca married John’s brother, Dan, for…some reason never explained.” – Well, Dan was the oldest brother in the family, he was probably expected to marry first, and who knows maybe it was an arranged marriage; that was how things worked back in the 1800s.
“How did Tonto escape from the jail?” – Now THAT still has me scratching my head. I have my own theory that Tonto can turn into a crow at will and escaped that way, as evidenced by the lone crow that flies away at the very end. This is a very strange world the film sets up, after all.
I enjoy the look and old-timey feel of the Texas desert and town, Hans Zimmer put out a nice Spaghetti Western inspired score, and the action while over the top and silly was strangely to my liking. That particular train chase at the end reminds me of a Great Western model set I had that me and my grandpa played with when I was VERY little, it’s almost a scene for scene replication! Depp and Armie Hammer kept my attention for the most part, but I do think they could have done without the museum framing device and the fantasy elements to keep it more straightforward. If anything, what the film needed more of was derring-do from John Reid as the heroic Ranger we wanted to see. Overall, it’s probably more a guilty pleasure than anything else, and while this will get me a lot of funny looks, I still don’t regret seeing it.
You’re definitely not alone in that. I have a friend who likes this movie a lot, mainly cuz Johnny Depps’ performance reminds him of Jack Sparrow.
I know a lot of people compared Depp’s performance of Tonto to Jack Sparrow, which at the time was understandable, but on further viewings I started seeing differences between them. They’re certainly both eccentric individuals, but the bases for their comedy differ a bit.
Jack Sparrow was modelled on a lot of classic rock stars, like Keith Richards or Mick Jagger, a lot of his comedy coming from odd mannerisms and drunken rambles. In essence, Sparrow is built on excess. Tonto, however, is significantly quieter and more restrained, and lot of his humour, as mentioned, comes from Depp’s face and less from silly lines (most of the time). It reminds me more of silent comedy than he does 80s rock stars, particularly Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton. Granted this is a strange combination of styles, and a lot of people did think he was just playing Sparrow again, but in the end I didn’t find them too similar.