By Marcus Flewellen
To all prospective filmmakers: No amount of money can salvage a god-awful script. Case in point: “The Lone Ranger”, Disney’s latest feeble attempt to create another multibillion-dollar franchise. “Ranger” – which cost $250 million to make – boasts the same director (Gore Verbinski), producer (Jerry Bruckheimer), star (Johnny Depp), and creative team behind the blockbuster “Pirates of the Caribbean” series. Disney’s obviously trying to duplicate that franchise’s success. Instead, they’ve made another “John Carter.”
The film stars Armie Hammer as John Reid, a wholesome but bland prosecutor who’s moving back to his Texas hometown. James Badge Dale plays his brother Dan, the leader of a band of Texas Rangers, who are ambushed and killed pretty early in the film by the cannibalistic criminal Butch Cavendish (played by William Fichtner, easily the best thing in the movie). John himself is shot and left for dead, but he manages to stay conscious just long enough to see Butch casually carve out and eat his brother’s heart.
The scene is an example of the movie’s biggest problem: its jarring tonal shifts. Such a graphic, violent scene would work in a Quentin Tarantino film or a black comedy. But in “The Lone Ranger” – which, for most of its running time, is harmless Disney action-comedy – it just shows how poorly written the film’s script is. It seems as if the screenwriters didn’t even attempt to make the film coherent.
John is saved and nursed back to health by Tonto, a Comanche warrior with his own personal vendetta against Cavendish. He’s played by Depp, who obviously has no problem playing eccentric characters. Of course, these two characters don’t get along at first: John thinks Tonto is a stupid savage, Tonto thinks that John is weak. The two manage, of course, to put aside their differences and band together to challenge Cavendish and the man he’s working for, a greedy railroad tycoon played by Tom Wilkinson.
I could say more about the plot, but really, what’s the point? This is the rare film that fails on virtually every level. The film’s epic running time, exorbitant budget, and talented cast promise something much more interesting and entertaining than this regurgitation of elements from dozens of other, much better, blockbusters. At 149 minutes, it’s roughly an hour too long. You would think that a $250 million movie would have a good script. Or at least a halfway-decent one.
It’s all more of the same. Actually, it’s less than that. In blockbuster movie terms, it’s “Iron Man 3” without the clever writing, “Star Trek: Into Darkness” without the stellar special effects, or “Fast and Furious 6” without all the fun. If those three movies represent big-budget Hollywood cinema at its finest, then “The Lone Ranger” represents it at its nadir.