From director Gore Verbinski and producer JerryBruckheimer comes an adventure story fit to follow Pirates of the Caribbean: The Lone Ranger. The film’s basic cowboys and Indians storyline, based on the classic 1930sradio show, is reminiscent of the plot of a middle-school play, but supped-up for the big screen with A-list actors, a $250 million budget and a touch of Disney magic.
The film, which features a narrative within a narrative, opens with a young boy visiting a carnival in the 1930swhen he stumbles upon an exhibit showcasing “The Noble Savage in His Natural Habitat.” The figure comes to life and introduces himself as Tonto (Johnny Depp), a Comanche Native American. Tonto, seeing the black mask the boy is sporting, begins to tell the tale of how he met his partner in justice, the Lone Ranger.
Tonto launches into the tale of John Reid (Armie Hammer), who returns home from law school in 1896 to become a Texas ranger. He finds that not only has the love of his life, Rebecca (Ruth Wilson), married his older brother during his absence, but a gang of outlaws, led by Butch Cavendish (WilliamFichtner), is currently wreaking havoc on local towns.
To make matters worse, the townspeople believe the recent murders and pillaging are the fault of local Native Americans, which would break the long established peace treaty. After the outlaws murder his fellow rangers, John is determined to see that they are punished under the law. He joins forces with Tonto, who wishes to seek revenge on those who destroyed his village long ago, and dons a black mask to conceal his identity.
These two unlikely heroes are loveable because they are meant to be so absolutely moronic. Depp and Hammer exhibit instant bromantic chemistry in their portrayals of Tonto and his “kemosabe,” the term of endearment Tonto uses for John throughout the film. It is difficult at first to imagine Depp choosing this role after a steady stream of playing strange, morally questionable characters in Pirates of the Caribbean, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and Alice in Wonderland. At first, his ability to fit into the role seems shaky, especially when he botches the Tonto’s accent. But once you can get past the blatant disregard for historical accuracy and the fact that Depp is not at all convincingly Native American, his portrayal of Tonto is both impressive and entertaining; he and his spirit horse are the comedic heart and soul of the film.
The rest of the cast is spot-on in their performances as well. Helena Bonham Carter plays Red Harrington, the woman in charge of the ladies of the night. Bonham Carter, who sparkles as usual, sporting a porcelain leg fully equipped with a shotgun in the foot, is an excellent addition to an already star-studded cast. Even though Bonham Carter’s role is minor, her presence in the cast will help The Lone Ranger compete with The Heat and White House Down in box offices.
From a technical standpoint, the city skylines, cannibal rabbits, explosions and epic train chases are convincing. Each action scene is creative and stimulating, sometimes going so far as to bend the laws of nature for the sake of entertainment. But the film’s greatest strength, hands down, is the underlying humor. It doesn’t matter if a scene was thrilling or romantic: the audience laughed all the way to the end.
The Lone Ranger joins the ranks of the very few PG-13 Disney movies. However, the higher age restriction allows for a more thrilling portrayal of good versus evil in the Wild West, and the film is able to more fully explore the delicate relationship between settlers and Native Americans during the construction of the first transcontinental railway. As competition for resources and wealth increases, so does corruption. Disney may be suggesting, in the friendship between John and Tonto, an alternative, more progressive approach to sharing territory.
The ending ties up any loose ends flawlessly and, even after over two hours, I was hoping the movie would continue. If you’re a Depp fan, make room for a new favorite. The Lone Ranger captures historical turmoil with the aid of brilliantly executed action scenes, a cast at the top of its game and enough laughs to make up for the fact we won’t be seeing Captain Jack Sparrow around anytime soon.