The Lone Ranger

tn_lonerangerFuck it. I loved THE LONE RANGER. I’m not gonna downplay it. It doesn’t surprise me it’s not a runaway hit, ’cause it’s a cowboy from a fuckin radio play, for chrissakes. Every several years they sink a bunch of money into a movie based on an old timey adventure hero like The Phantom, The Shadow, The Green Hornet, John Carter, or this guy, and maybe with the exception of Zorro they’ve all failed to make money or capture the public consciousness. But I tend to like these kinds of movies, so thank you, corporations, for losing so much scratch on my behalf, especially this time. Here we have the most artful and original of any of those mentioned. I wouldn’t expect everybody to want to see it, but I honestly can’t comprehend the hatred for it by people who have.

It’s made by Team Pirates of the Caribbean: director Gore Verbinski, star Johnny Depp, producer Jerry Bruckheimer, studio Walt Disney, writers Terry Rossio & Ted Elliot (this time with Justin Haythe, who wrote SNITCH), composer Hans Zimmer. And I personally really like their three Pirates movies, so keep that in mind, but this is much more concise and focused. I’m not gonna say it’s better than PIRATES 2, with all those crazy creatures and shit, but it’s faster moving and better structured.

See, with the PIRATES movies you have the funny rogue Jack Sparrow, but you have to give equal screen time to developing all these more serious characters, like Will and Elizabeth, who have to grow up and meet and get into trouble and fall in love and all that shit. And I like their story, but LONE RANGER combines any seriousness with the humorous pair of Johnny Depp as Tonto and Armie “the man who would’ve been Batman” Hammer as John Reid, a non-violent lawyer who becomes the masked vigilante cowboy sometimes known as the Lone Ranger.

mp_lonerangerLike the Seth Rogen/Michel Gondry take on the Lone Ranger’s nephew’s son THE GREEN HORNET, but with more success, LONE RANGER turns the degraded minority sidekick into the mastermind of the operation, and in this case also the lead of the movie. Tonto’s actually not the sidekick, he’s the mentor. He brings Reid back from death, convinces him to wear the mask and brings him to get revenge on his brother’s killer, but as opposed to previous kemosabe-worshipping versions of Tonto – and in true buddy movie fashion – he thinks the guy’s a fuckin idiot. He’d really prefer to bring back Reid’s badass Texas Ranger brother (James Badge Dale), so much so that he tries to convince a spirit animal that it’s all a mistake and gives the Heavens an exasperated “what the fuck?” shrug. Then he drags Reid’s unconscious head across rocks and through horse shit.

The killer they’re after is William Fichtner as Butch Cavendish, a cannibalistic outlaw with a cartoonishly ugly facial scarring, representative of the types of dudes you’ll see in this movie. Verbinski brings his Disneyland style exaggeration and attention-to-detail to a western landscape. It’s a world of squinty roughnecks and withered, silver-toothed caricatures, so all kinds of great character actors get their weird mugs in there. I noticed for example Robert Baker (that cool backyard fighter/wannabe cockfighter guy from Justified), a bearded Matt O’Leary (the junkie trafficker from EDEN), Barry Pepper, Stephen Root. And a whole lot of interesting-looking guys I couldn’t name.

It’s jam-packed with little details and visual gags, like a Sousa-playing brass band dragged along by a train that pulls their stage out from under them, later returning injured, earnestly playing their flattened horns. Or there’s the outlaw who steals and wears women’s garments – never commented on, except when he protests “It’s not what it looks like. I just like purty things!” – who nervously/fetishistically sucks on (his own?) hair braid. And you can imagine that they go all out for the rowdy brothel customers, or the circus sideshow. There’s always something extra going on, what Walt Disney called “plussing.” And to think they abandoned plans to have the bad guys be werewolves to keep the budget down!

(There are enough remnants in the script to see how it would’ve worked, but the way they rewrote it to lead to a big realization for Tonto is perfect. Probly should’ve ditched the man-eating rabbit scene, though. Not sure what was up with that.)

The PIRATESes are full of Looney-Tunes type action (Jack Sparrow on a runaway water wheel chased by cannibals), some of which is really clear, some of which is hard to see through the visual chaos of elaborate camera moves and fast edits. Same goes for his gorgeous but narratively-muddled cartoon movie RANGO (an animal remake of that most thrilling of westerns, the water conspiracy from CHINATOWN). In THE LONE RANGER all the action sequences are perfectly clear and meticulously choreographed, a series of outlandish chain reactions and lucky moves often taking place on top of, underneath, inside, or between speeding trains. (In one scene the Ranger rides a horse inside a train, firing through the windows into another train. Possibly an homage to the motorcycle chase inside the train in TORQUE?)

Apparently it’s 149 minutes, so I can’t claim it’s short, but it didn’t seem too long to me. I mean, it’s a western, and it’s shorter than ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE WEST (an obvious influence, and victim of wholesale theme-song-ripping-off) or THE GOOD THE BAD AND THE UGLY. It’s shorter than PIRATES 2 and 3, not much longer than PIRATES 1 or MASK OF ZORRO, the Rossio and Elliot-scripted old-timey adventure movie this reminds me of most. Similar tone and subject matter, more laughs, absurdity and silent comedy homages. At times it also reminded me of ADVENTURES OF BARON MUNCHAUSEN (with its crazy old man telling a child possible tall tales) as well as 1941 and PAINT YOUR WAGON (for their high end depictions of epic, comedically timed mayhem).

There’s a precision to LONE RANGER that I don’t think is present in the PIRATESes. Reid’s brother gives his son a slingshot, tells him he should be shooting rabbits by the time he gets back. When he never comes back the kid’s uncle Lone Ranger and the railroad baron Coal (Tom Wilkinson) compete for surrogate father status. But Coal is a rich asshole who makes the kid feed him grapes. Tonto, secretly climbing along the undercarriage, trades a silver bullet (made from the kid’s dead father’s melted badge) for a grape. Later, when the shit goes down, the kid slings grapes at Coal as if to say “fuck you for degrading me like this!” and one into Tonto’s mouth as if to say “thank you.” And of course he throws the bullet to his uncle who shoots it to knock the gun out of Coal’s hand to save his mother. Each little incident is a gear that spins another gear and leads to the larger function of the machine, like the pocket watch that Tonto carries as a reminder of his mission.

I’ve read complaints that other characters don’t get much screen time, but of course I think that was the right decision. In one scene Tonto and Reid go to a brothel where they meet Helena Bonham Carter as a madam with a gun built into her fancy china ivory prosthetic leg. They get the information they need out of her and we get everything we need to know before she shows up to help out at the end. I’m also thankful for the fairly limited time spent on the sister-in-law/sort-of-love-interest/hostage character (Ruth Wilson), although admittedly a more spunky performance in those few scenes could’ve made us care about her more when she gets involved in the action at the end.

One thing that didn’t occur to me would be in the movie, but is used very prominently: The William Tell Overture, or “Lone Ranger theme song” as I always thought of it. I couldn’t help but smile that the giant climactic action set piece was set to it. It’s so perfect because it’s associated with the Lone Ranger, but also it’s great for a “physical funny business set to classical music” type of thing, and at the same time it has a sense of genuine adventure, and yet is about as far as you could possibly get from your standard 2013 blockbuster scoring (most of which is created by or copying Zimmer, incidentally). Nothing against his team’s bombastic scores for the PIRATES movies, but it’s really refreshing to get this instead.

Anybody else notice this?

It’s Depp’s movie, but I think Hammer is great in it, able to be funny without being an ass or undermining his heroism. John Reid is naively idealistic about the law and all the more likable for it. Fallible and dorky but believably capable when the shit goes down.

I actually did grow up watching the old Lone Ranger show on TV, but I don’t really remember what the appeal was exactly, and I’m skeptical of the reviews I’ve seen by people claiming to be offended that  this movie makes a joke out of him. I mean more power to you if it really does bother you, but I think we can all see this is an antiquated character, created for a medium that no longer exists, in a genre that barely survives, with racial depictions we’re all ashamed of now. To re-create it at face value would be ridiculous. I prefer their idea of capturing some of the fun of the character while using him to comment on the racial inequality of the stories and of the historical setting, much like the way THE PHANTOM reworks its hero as a guardian of Africans instead of their god, spending his time stealing treasures from western museums and returning them to their original owners.

They’ve created a really enjoyable Tonto-Lone Ranger relationship here so although I usually hate those “make fun of the character’s perceived silliness by modern standards” jokes I loved the Lone Ranger doing one of his trademarks for the first time and being shot down by Tonto saying, “Never do that again.” It plays off of the squareness of their Lone Ranger and their Tonto’s disgust with him. It’s a funny joke, and after all these years Tonto deserves to deliver the punchline.

The movie doesn’t just give lip service to the white man’s poor treatment of the natives, it’s all about it, going so far as to be harshly framed by an elderly Tonto telling the story from a diorama in a penny-ante museum, labelled “The Noble Savage In His Natural Habitat.” When Wilkinson’s white railroad baron gives a speech about peace between the races, he of course intends to follow no such path. When we see an Indian attack on a settlement, complete with scalping, it’s quickly revealed to be white men in disguise, staging a Comanche treaty-violation so private business can slaughter them for profit. When a fierce Army General (Pepper) finds out he massacred Comanches based on a lie he’s crushed, then decides it’s better to accept the lie and go on believing he’s the good guy. When the Comanches retaliate we root for them. Ultimately John Reid changes his views of civilization vs. savagery and disavows enforcing the law of his genocidal culture.

Here, I can prove it:

Screen Shot 2013-07-06 at 2.30.48 AM
Many have called Depp’s Tonto a “buffoon.” Fine, but only in the sense that he’s more Bugs Bunny than Crazy Horse. His odd dress and mysticism, decried of course as a stereotype by people who won’t see the movie, is explicitly revealed in the text to not have a basis in tribal custom. When Reid is captured by Comanches they tell him that Tonto is not part of their tribe, he’s a crazy dude with a tragic story and an amusing hobby of fucking with the white man. In other words, he’s not representative of Native Americans. He’s just Tonto.

He’s also, by the way, a badass who flips and slams Reid with one arm, fearlessly hangs under speeding trains and doesn’t wince when he’s buried up to the neck with the cavalry’s horses running over his head. He’s the toughest and funniest character in the movie, and the one the kids – if Disney ever gets any of them to see it – will want to be when they’re playing on the playground. That’s one of the things I think race-based criticisms of the movie are completely missing.

Yeah, let’s get into it. I think the main reason this movie isn’t making the money they wanted it to is because it’s the fuckin Lone Ranger, and it’s a western. That’s not really what $200 million worth of people are gonna rush out to see. But it doesn’t help their case that alot of people also find it offensive that Johnny Depp, a white man, is playing a Comanche.

But Depp sees his performance as a compliment. He told Entertainment Weekly during the filming, “I always felt Native Americans were badly portrayed in Hollywood films over the decades. It’s a real opportunity for me to give a salute to them. Tonto was a sidekick in all the Lone Ranger series. [This film] is a very different approach to that partnership. And a funny one I think.”

I believe 100% that Depp is legit in his intentions of playing Tonto, and that he’s done a good thing. I’ve gotten into more than one heated argument with friends about this topic. In one recent case a total stranger overheard and joined in against me. In all cases I made no traction at all in convincing anyone of anything. But having seen the movie now I’m not budging on this myself, so here I’m gonna bull-headedly try to win you guys over to my side.

The argument against it is that Johnny Depp is a white guy, can’t they give the role to a real Native American actor. But he’s part Cherokee, I say, and he got Disney to do it because he wants there to be more positive Native American characters on screen. What is he, 1/16 Cherokee? Does he want a scholarship? Well, how Cherokee does he have to be for you to be okay with him being proud of it? Are you saying because we think of him as a white guy he can’t talk about any other part of his heritage? Is this different from if you told Vin Diesel or The Rock or Maya Rudolph they weren’t black enough? Or white or Samoan enough? “I’m sorry, we don’t think of you as black, so just don’t be black please.” I’m not saying that, I’m just saying why can’t they have a full blooded Native American actor play Tonto?

Of course it would be awesome if a full on, raised-on-the-reservation Native American actor got to star in a giant Disney summer event movie. Also, it would be great if he had the unique vision of this weird character and gave this great of a performance and worked as well with this team of people that Johnny Depp works with. Who do you have in mind?

I mean I understand, it’s a nice sentiment, but I’m telling you it has no basis in the reality of movie-making. Johnny Depp is one of the biggest movie stars in the world and they already cancelled this movie at one point and almost didn’t make it (and now probly wish they’d stuck with that). If you want to do a lower budget LONE RANGER at some other studio with somebody Native enough for your tastes playing Tonto then good luck. But I bet you 1) no studio is gonna make that movie, 2) if they do they won’t figure out how to get even this many people to see it and 3) if they do see it their kids will go home and fight about who gets to be the Lone Ranger, because who the fuck wants to be Adam Beach? I mean, nothing against him, but he’s no Johnny Depp.

That’s what it comes down to for me. This is not taking away a role from a Native American actor, it’s adding a role that otherwise would not exist. Realistically it’s a choice between a big budget Disney movie this summer where not-Cherokee-enough-for-you Johnny Depp plays a cool, memorable Native American character, or no movies this summer with any Native American characters in them. That would’ve been the alternative. And I say take option 1. Baby steps.

This is something that frustrates me with alot of people on my end of the political spectrum, we’re so idealistic that if we can’t get everything we want then we want to toss out the whole deal. The first time I got into this Tonto argument it morphed into an even more uphill battle involving Disney Princesses. (Apologies to the friend I had this argument with if she’s reading.) I’m defending the intentions of Disney’s POCAHONTAS, she thinks it’s racist ’cause it’s corny and not culturally/historically accurate and thinks they whitewash this story by turning it into a G-rated cartoon musical. I say don’t you gotta give them credit for making a movie for children with a brave and beautiful Native American heroine standing up against genocidal colonialist bad guys, isn’t this an improvement from what they did in PETER PAN? But she doesn’t think that’s good enough… she starts laying into Tiana from THE PRINCESS AND THE FROG, because her prince is white or light-skinned or something, why can’t she have a black prince. I say wait a minute, I if it was a black prince you’d be complaining “why do the two black characters gotta get together, does Disney got a problem with interracial love?” I contend that there is for sure no possible scenario where you’re happy with Disney’s depiction of a Native American or black princess, and therefore I believe you’re really asking them not to try, to just have white princesses.

There’s no winning that argument. It’s a quagmire. Good thing I brought it up again, huh? Ah, shit.

Anyway who gives a shit what a white guy thinks about all this, here is a pretty even-handed article from the Indian Country Today Media Network which details the Depp controversy. Some activists are questioning Depp’s claims of Cherokee heritage and asking him to verify it (SHOW ME YOUR PAPERS, BOY!), while obviously Disney defers to their consultants for the movie, who defend their work. And if you’re interested I actually recommend reading the comments, which leaned heavily pro-Depp when I read them, but they bring up alot of interesting points on all sides of the issue.

I’m sure I’ll have to keep arguing all that shit over and over again, but what I really wish I could convince people about is not just the movie’s intent, but its actual achievement. I say it’s a fun, beautifully shot adventure with spectacular action sequences and just the right balance of clever, funny, weird and too-“politically-correct”-for-Brit-Hume. I’m not sure what you fellas were looking for in a LONE RANGER  movie – or what I was looking for, for that matter. But I’m glad we got this instead.

This entry was posted on Monday, July 8th, 2013 at 12:54 am and is filed under Reviews, Western. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

109 Responses to “The Lone Ranger”

  1. Well, I loved John Carter, so maybe I’ll watch this one. Thanks for the advise, Vern.

  2. I can’t begrudge your sentiment even if I don’t agree with it, but I do kind of have problems coming around to this movie being completely subversive. I love the idea of framing it and literally making Tonto’s story, but, fuck, couldn’t they have had him act as the straight in the buddy duo? I think that would have been awesome–instead of getting exaggerated schtick (like we used to see in all those old Westerns), it would have been cool to see something more authentic and in-line with the other natives The Lone Ranger meets. And I don’t even have a problem with turning the Lone Ranger himself into a joke if there’s a point to it, but it’s like the entire movie spends 2 hours being really fuckin’ embarrassed of where it comes from, only to run right into its arms during the last 20 minutes (and then being all like “GTFO” with that last exchange between the Masked Man and Tonto–it’s like the big climactic sequence is the one night stand where the movie uses The Lone Ranger as it pleases, then kicks it out of bed).

    I dunno, it’s certainly not a poorly made movie because Verbinski is talented as hell, but it’s just so thematically confused that I couldn’t get into it. It’s a buddy movie where you actually believe both guys really don’t like each other, and I never bought those two coming together at the end. The whole movie is sorta divided like that–for every solemn scene that features Indians being slaughtered, there’s a glib joke about how the natives and Chinese immigrants hate white people. Even the whole conflict that John Reid has in his journey is kind of fucked–he goes from being a guy who wants to uphold justice through the law to being a guy who has no qualms about kind of manslaughtering people by letting them die. He embraces frontier justice, which is kinda off-putting and doesn’t seem too noble. I guess I just mostly feel like I couldn’t take an overarching point from it, but it is fun during a couple of moments (like anytime there’s trains involved).

    If nothing else, this does have Surprise Barry Pepper, so which is never a bad thing.

  3. ДедМороз

    July 8th, 2013 at 1:17 am

    John Derp is also 3/4 water, so I can definitely see him volunteering for those Justice League flicks to “improve Aquaman’s image”, using the same kind of logic he used for this one.

  4. Дед Мороз

    July 8th, 2013 at 1:32 am

    Oh, and when it comes to NA voice on this issue, I’d rather take the opinion of someone who is well-established, respected and fully objective (he doesn’t even have a single pic taken with Derp)… and who has been long known to NEVER pussyfoot around, no matter what the topic is. And the man I mean is none other than Marty Two Bulls.

    He even did one on Derp’s apologists.

  5. Y’know, “derp” is actually a used to make fun of mentally disabled people, while “Depp” is a German word for “fool”, so you can still insult him, just by using his real name and don’t come across like…y’know.

  6. Great review, Vern. I’m also amazed at the downright hostility shown towards this movie. I read a box office report this morning where the author flat out expressed his glee about its bombing (http://tinyurl.com/l2p7xn2). Honestly, you’d think Disney just spent $250 million remaking Triumph of the Will. Having said that, what the hell were they thinking spending that kind of coin? Wouldn’t studios be in better shape spreading their money around a greater number of productions? I’m not a financial expert, but isn’t the first rule of investment having a varied portfolio, instead of all your eggs in one basket?

  7. The trailers really make this look like Pirates of the Caribbean Go West…and since I had to seriously struggle hard to make it to the end of PotC 2(even sitting through Hellraiser 4 wasn’t as challenging, and that movie was fucking awful), I pretty much have no interest in this. Add to the fact that I have no real interest in The Lone Ranger to begin with(though from the trailers and the reviews little about this movie has much to do with the Lone Ranger anyways) and well…yeah, pass.

  8. I’m glad to see you liked this one, Vern. I thought it was a feast for the eyes, even if it was a little dramatically inert. People keep saying the Helena Bonham Carter scenes could’ve been excised without disrupting the plot one bit…that might be true, but that geek show and ridiculously detailed brothel were probably my favorite parts of the film. And jeez, the final action scene is top notch. Better than anything in Man of Steel or Furious 6, in my opinion. I don’t really understand how anyone can see this as anything less than an interesting misfire. I just think it’s one of those films where various small issues build and build in the critic’s minds. People are tired of Depp’s somewhat lazy eccentric performances. They don’t like that he’s not Native. The film cost too much money. It’s not true to the character (that no one really cares about). Etc. Etc. When the resulting film doesn’t quite work in every way it should, and when it’s as weird in certain spots as this one (the carnivorous bunnies) then people seem to act like it’s an unwatchable abomination. Or maybe I’m just making a lot of assumptions.

  9. By the way, am I the only one who expects any minute the news that the studio pulled the plug on Shane Black’s DOC SAVAGE movie?

  10. I’m glad Vern enjoyed The Lone Ranger. I was actually really impressed with the movie. Tonally it can seem a little all over the place, and it did feel like they had a lot more that they wanted to stuff into the movie but couldn’t. (You can’t promise us a Wendingo and not have someone turn into a monster, damnit). But that train sequence at the end is top fuckin’ notch. It is without a doubt the action scene to beat this summer. And while I can nitpick some aspects of how Native Americans are portrayed, Depp’s Tonto is one of his best characters in a while. He’s a wonderful comic creation that at times harkens back to the old silent film actors. (Buster Keaton is all over this film).

  11. Hey, cool. I thought for sure you’d hate this one, Vern. It does that “What kind of ignoramus would take the concept of this movie we spent hundreds of millions of dollars and two years of our lives on seriously?” thing that pissed you off about NATIONAL TREASURE. But I guess execution matters. This movie is funny and weird enough that the straight-faced approach wouldn’t really have worked.

    I totally agree with you. Great action sequences, excellent attention to detail, and fun characterizations all around. Verbinski’s clarity amongst all the chaos (both visual and narrative) is really commendable. I like how his style is like 85% goofy, cartoony eye candy with like 15% actual badass grit and menace keeping it from being too soft to be taken seriously.

    But what do I know, I thought PIRATES 2 was easily the best of the bunch.

  12. Do you remember when Johnny Depp played a Native American in 1997 and nobody cared?

  13. I know Vern said it doesn’t seem long but I am getting real tired of all these long ass movies. I hate having to dedicate all my free time on a work day to watching one god damn movie.

  14. I liked the music, the look of the film and the fact that the horse was magic.

    That being said, I can’t say that it’s a good movie. It’s definitely the most interesting big budget mess I’ve seen in a while, though. The Lone Ranger and Tonto characterizations are just so weird. LR is a pompous, kind of racist doofus and Tonto’s a baby-talking delusional weirdo. No one likes them. They’re not heroes. They hate each other. It’s a BOLD NEW TAKE that fascinates and frustrates me at the same time!

    Frustrating because:

    -It’s hard to care about two guys who hate each other’s guts. I’m all for the buddies BUTTING HEADS in a buddy movie, but they eventually have to start to liking each other for me to actually give a shit. There’s no indication that LR and Tonto will ever be friends. It makes moments like Tonto showing up to rescue LR after their big “You’re a crazy guy who sold out your tribe for a watch/You’re a white coward and I don’t need you” blow-up and Tonto & LR riding off together at the end head-scratching moments.

    -It’s hard to care about two selfish goofballs. They’re both motivated by revenge. They never become heroes and help people.

    That being said, I thought the movie moved at a good pace when LR & Tonto were on screen. It grinded to a halt and become a muddled bore when it spent time Latham Cole, Rebecca Reid, Dan Reid or Dan Reid’s son. Butch Cavendish is kind of cool, but he’s pretty much a henchman.

    About Native American JD:

    What really baffles me about Depp’s take on Tonto is his choice to go with the stereotypical broken English baby talk. Seems like he did it just because he thought it was funny? It makes me cringe and it becomes even more awkward when the one actual Native American guy in the movie who’s allowed to talk speaks normally.

  15. btw a better “fun & weird” Lone Ranger story with a Tonto who’s more than just an errand boy was released years ago:


  16. Y’know, how Vern describes Tonto in this movie, makes me think that he seems to be like Shore Leave from THE VENTURE BROS. A character, who looks and sounds like an awful negative stereotype, but then turns out to be totally badass, brave and more of a role model, than most sanitized, political correct incarnations of his character could ever be.

    Of course I haven’t seen the movie yet. It’s starting here in 4 weeks, unless they re-shedule it because of its box office bomb status. It’s almost a shame that international box office numbers are so important for Hollywood these days, or otherwise it would have been dumped straight to DVD over here before summer is over. I miss that a little.

  17. If kids imitate Tonto after seeing this, they’re imitating him because he’s the character who has the most goofy/funny moments. I never thought of him as a BADASS WARRIOR. Depp’s Tonto is more of a tragic oddball figure in this.

  18. But isn’t it suggested in the movie that Tonto is a little crazy. He might speak broken English because he does not have a full grasp of a foreign language, but it might also be that he is messing around. Tonto is clearly messed in the head (and understandably so). I actually like the idea that you take Tonto and make him into a mercurial trickster figure. The trickster character has a long history in Native literature, so not only does it play to Depp’s strengths as an actor but it is also an attempt to do right by Native cultures.

  19. Depp could have done all of the crazy oddball stuff while speaking in complete sentences. Going with the awkward HORSE SAY YOU SPIRIT WALKER voice makes no sense to me, especially after all of Depp’s talk about respectfulness and making a version of Tonto that Native Americans could be proud of.

  20. The Ghost Who Walks

    July 8th, 2013 at 9:32 am

    Nice review as always. However, as a long time reader of “The Phantom”, which is still published in both comics and newspapers after almost 80 years, I can’t help pointing out that the 1996 movie version doesn’t really re-work anything. The Phantom was portrayed as a jungle lord at the comic’s beginning, but was soon, thankfully, changed into being the friend and helper of the people of Bengalla (his country, which I wish really existed so I could go there and run around in purple tights like a maniac). In several stories, he does indeed hunt down stolen treasures to bring them back to their original African owners.

    I would kill to see a new Phantom movie (or one with the Shadow, for that matter), and hope the lack of success of the Lone Ranger doesn’t prevent more pulp-era heroes reaching the big screen. I really enjoyed the Lone Ranger too, and would go see a sequel if it was to happen. Like all the pulp movies you mention in your review it is probably not entirely perfect, but who cares as long as I’m having this much fun with all of those films.

    End nerdy comment, carry on please.

  21. If you didn’t think Depp’s version of Tonto transcended the Native stereotype of the original, then I understand to an extent, and I’m certainly not going to change your mind. But the filmmakers are aware of how problematic the character is. They obviously tried to attribute things like his pidgin speech to the fact that he is an eccentric outcast, which deflect these characteristics from the Native-American community at large. I’ve heard people say that the character is so racist to begin with that it is a fool’s errand to try and save him for the 21st century. Again, I see where they’re coming from, but I disagree. I actually felt like Depp did something interesting with the character, and the story itself is mostly about wrongs committed to the American-Indians.

    That’s not to say that I thought the film was entirely unproblematic. The movie sometimes plays into the myth of the vanishing Indian. Before riding off, the Comanche chief says, “We are ghosts already.” And then his forces are later slaughtered. The main villain also tells Tonto that in time no one will even remember that he was there. I think these comments about Indians completely disappearing are more of a problem than Depp playing Tonto. They are never fully rebuffed (I would have liked to see the Natives actually win against the U.S. military). The myth of the disappearing Indian is a problem because Native-Americans are in fact still around and it’s this assumption that they’re a dying race that allows people to ignore them as a community.

    On a different note, I normally don’t care much about a movie’s box office. But I do like these old timey pulp movies. And like others have mentioned, it sounds like we won’t be getting any of them for a very long time. It’s a real shame.

  22. RBatty, I think the movie is commenting on that with the wraparound story, Tonto turned into a seemingly inanimate museum relic by the white man. At the end of the day he puts on his modern clothes and wobbles off… somewhere.

    Then again it could be symbolic of what they’re trying to do with the character, releasing him from his fate frozen in time as a dusty old stereotype.

    I guess it’s pretty open to interpretation. Maybe it’s not literal enough to get its point across. But I like it.

  23. Well I eventually went mad for John Carter and Pirates 3 is my favourite, so I’m in for this. Is it as noisy as I expect it will be? Seriously, I’m getting older but I don’t need help getting deafer, but cinemas these days…

  24. Didn’t Tonto put on the Lone Ranger’s suit and turn into a crow at the end? I don’t really know what to make of that at this point.

    Maybe that Lone Ranger fan kid escaped from a mental hospital and it was all in his head! The scene even had standard storybook “But it’s not real, is it?”/ “That’s up to YOU…” dialogue.

  25. “And I personally really like their three Pirates movies, so keep that in mind, but this is much more concise and focused.”

    Vern – I think its the opposite. This wanted to be both a parody of the same cornball white hat-wearing cowboy heroics that it also wanted to embrace…didn’t really work for me. If you’re gonna pull the corn, fully embrace it.

    Plus it didn’t help that after seeing TLR, I caught the 2nd PIRATES movie on cable again….blows TLR out of the water.

    I’m reminded again of DREDD, which didn’t bother with an origin story. Not every character needs an origin story. (Jack Sparrow sure didn’t.)

  26. Let me elaborate, I thought this movie was OK. Not as bad as the critics making it out to be. (Nor Drew McWeeny’s as usual hyperbole reviewing.) There are some good laughs and moments I really did like, like the buddy conflict/humor sequence when both leads are stuck together by chains and have to escape and save the passengers. That was good. The finale train sequence was terrific even. The production values are outstanding and show off very crisply on digital.

    I just think among other things, the movie takes just too long to get going and it drags. Origin stories are fine and dandy, but honestly I just don’t think the one for TLR is all that particularly interesting or engaging. (Like you Vern, I did laugh at the horse scene.) And honestly, I could’ve done very fine without the PRINCESS BRIDE bookend.

  27. One more thing, I’ll defend TLR on one charge I keep reading in some reviews about how dare this movie shift from horrible tragedy to a silly joke, or the code words being used is “tone shifts.” (I might be wrong, but Drew’s review complained about the same thing, especially that horse on tree scene which I (and my crowd) laughed at.)

    Really folks? This almost reminded me of the common criticism that continental Europeans (incidentally most being French) had against Shakespeare for the longest time, how dare he could have a boner joke in a tragic play like King Lear or a vaginal pun in Hamlet. Doesn’t matter if they’re funny. Dramas must be fully dramatic! Comedies can’t have drama!

  28. wadew – I’m honestly not sure what happens, but I think we’re supposed to wonder if the dead crow came back to life. During the credits Tonto drags his suitcase slowly through the desert, so if he turned into a bird it didn’t stick.

    RRA – What if it was called TONTO then? That’s what the story is about, his quest for revenge/redemption and how he does it partly through this guy. I can’t relate to anybody thinking “damn, why is it an origin story, I wanted to see him saying ‘Hi Ho Silver’ at the beginning!” The journey of John Reid the square lawyer to the Lone Ranger is one case where it’s more interesting than if he was a masked hero at the beginning. (And he gets to do all the heroic shit anyway.)

  29. Vern, please review 1981’s The Legend of the Lone Ranger soon. I think you’ll enjoy it. It’s nowhere near as bad as people said it was.

    I haven’t seen this yet, but I really want to. I’ve loved The Lone Ranger since I was a kid. I am actually more excited to see this than Pacific Rim, which probably means I have to have my Geek Credentials revoked or something.

  30. Jack, getting excited for a movie based on a classic pulp hero, will upgrade your Geek credentials to gold status in some places of the internet!

  31. Knox Harrington

    July 8th, 2013 at 1:49 pm

    I watch about 90% of all blockbusters released on the big screen, I love westerns and I grew up a fan of the Lone Ranger, but I have very little interest in seeing this. I’m just not that keen on watching a movie about the guy playing Tonto trying to steal the show. I’m tired of Depp playing dress-up and being “wacky”. It kinda rubs me the wrong way that he wants to play all the fun supporting roles and still be the star of the show. Hey, it’s great that he can get away with it, and I’m happy if people enjoy it, but I think he’s a ballhair away from becoming a one trick pony. Also, the trailers and making-of made it look like Armie Hammer is doing that annoying moaning sissy boy thing he did in Mirror Mirror. I hope he’s not like that throughout the whole movie.

    I’m also not really a fan of doing the jokey version of old pulp characters. If Batman wasn’t as prominent over the decades, the latest cinematic take on the character might have gone the same way as that Seth Rogen Green Hornet movie. That’s a scary thought. We wouldn’t have a breakthrough film like The Dark Knight. Look, I get that some of these old characters are just inherently more ridiculous and goofy today than others (like Spider-man, if you think about it), but the Lone Ranger? The story of a masked sheriff set during the days of the wild west? That’s not the kind of thing you have to do with a constant wink to the audience. What happened to good old pulp?

    Maybe I’m just no fun, but I really hope that 10 or 20 years from now we’ll have more sincere, less jokey cinematic versions of The Lone Ranger, Sherlock Holmes and The Green Hornet. Then again, we could end up with Russell Brand playing The Shadow.

  32. flyingguillotine

    July 8th, 2013 at 2:50 pm

    Vern, you are absolutely correct in terms of the kind of thought financing puts into casting. If they’re going to put a summer tentpole-level budget behind a project, they want A-list talent in the leads to help it open. The lower the budget, the more creativity (or “authenticity”) can go into casting.

    The exception is if the underlying property is huge… for instance, a bestselling novel series a la HARRY POTTER or TWILIGHT. Then you can have young actors without as much track record and more mature character actors in your roles… because you know it’s a softer sell to the mainstream audience, i.e. people are going to see it, anyway.

    Disney must have felt snake bit by JOHN CARTER, and would only do LONE RANGER (another old-timey character with a lot of traction with a younger audience) with someone like Johnny Depp.

  33. Well, if it helps you understand any of the negative criticism, I certainly wasn’t gunning to hate it. I’m always hoping for another HUDSON HAWK, LAST ACTION HERO or MEMOIRS OF AN INVISIBLE MAN situation where I can champion the unfairly maligned film, but THE LONE RANGER just wasn’t the Lone Ranger movie I wanted to see. I kind of would like a lone ranger type character to be a badass instead of a buffoon. Or that is to say, the buffoonery must not have worked or I would have liked it. Perhaps the problem is that both Tonto and TLR are buffoons so there’s no contrast, or both are trying to be badass buffoons.

    The wraparound segment to me is just indicative of modern movies that don’t know how to just tell stories. Everything has to be a flashback from somewhere else. Cool if people are seeing some depth or message in it but I think that’s a reach. The finale with the William Tell overture was fantastic. That was the movie I wanted to see. A whole movie full of elaborate sequences like that. The rest of the action was just bleh. Like the cabe scene, three gags and out, very stilted.

    Excellent analysis on the race issue. You are right, America has a problem where it’s all or nothing. We won’t stop until we get our way completely. Look where that’s gotten us. Another related problem is that if we can prove someone wrong once, then we never have to listen to them about anything, even if they have smart wisdom on 90% of other things. I’d love to be the chance I want to see and champion some compromise or honoring individual ideas as a part of a person’s whole.

    I do have to take issue with blaming the western and the recognition of Lone Ranger. Nobody was seeing pirate movies and a movie based on a ride was an even worse idea than an outdated radio/TV/movie character. PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN was wonderful all around, hit every note on action, Depp’s weirdness, magic, romance… It’s great to find good in TLR, and understandably prefer it to PIRATES for your taste, but for the public I think it’s noticeably different.

  34. I loved it. And Vern, I TOTALLY agree about the Once Upon a Time in the West theme “homage.” I wasn’t expecting a classic. I was expecting what I got. Call me a dumbass but but for me it was a fun flick. The only thing missing was near the end having one of the yokels proclaim “Who was that masked man?”

  35. I very much think lefty types (like me) do a disservice to themselves, cinema, and minorities when they insist that every depiction of a minority (or perceived minority) fit neatly into the category of A) breaking entirely with all past depictions of that minority from less enlightened eras and B) representing a positive image of that minority as a whole. Stereotypes are bad, obviously, but I would argue that asking a single character to represent an entire varied community or race of people is *at least* as unfair, and it has the additional disadvantage of discouraging a wide portrayal of minorities in interesting or complex roles.

    I felt the same way when everyone fell all over themselves to call APOCALYPTO racist, because it was not a 100% historically accurate portrayal of the Mayan culture. What, you’d prefer they never make a fictional movie about the Mayans, and just stick to documentaries? What a terrible waste of an opportunity to depict a little known “minority” community as a vast and diverse group of varied *people*. That movie, more than almost any other (and there are precious few even to compare it to) steadfastly lets its characters be human beings, not representatives of a particular group. If there’s a way to end racism, I say it’s in this kind of portrayal, not in rebranding groups with yet another set of stereotypes, (albeit intentionally more positive ones).

    So I guess the way I look at it, keeping minority characters off-screen or severely limiting the way they can be portrayed (or who they can be portrayed by) is exactly the wrong direction to go in. We should encourage as many images as possible, and that means moving beyond politics of minority representation into letting individual characters speak for themselves. I suspect this will eventually be a process which builds on itself; more characters given more to do will help writers develop better tools to avoid lazy cliches and stereotypes and start to embrace more possibilities. There’s nothing wrong –and in fact, a lot right– with being aware of, and sensitive to, trends in the way cultures and groups are portrayed in media. But making that the fault and responsibility of any single character, actor, artist, or work of art is incredibly limiting and I think ultimately makes it harder to do the one thing which genuinely WILL help to improve all our lives: seeing people as people *first*, rather than races, genders, or “minorities.” Depp’s Tonto –whatever the character’s cultural baggage is– is a character first, and I think forcing him to be a representative of all Amerindians is much more degrading and more harmful than the character could possibly be by himself, free of that context.

  36. I’ve been hearing a growing groundswell of people saying TLR is actually good, but hearing Vern rave about it is the tipping point for me. Guess I have to go see it now.

    Vern, in your review you were amused that Brit Hume* found the movie too PC but annoyed that your friend didn’t find it PC enough. Maybe that’s a problem people are having with the movie. Anyone old-school enough to care about the Lone Ranger doesn’t want to see that ‘Murica-bashing, frog-loving Depp turn it into an ironic comedy, while anyone who likes Depp probably doesn’t want to see a Western at all, let alone one that’s remotely old-school or innocent.

    I’m sure Disney wanted a crossover hit, but those are two flavors that don’t necessarily mix for most people. Kind of like how AI was fascinating to us film nerds as a combination of Kubrick and Spielberg, the trouble being that there don’t seem to be that many people who like Kubrick AND Spielberg.

    In hindsight, Lone Ranger and John Carter might have been interesting choices as mid-budget counterprogramming, but instead Disney bet the farm on two properties that have zero brand recognition to most people under the age of, like, 60. Maybe the first PotC was an equally ridiculous gamble, but I don’t know if that movie had as much riding on it and it seemed to be kind of a sleeper hit at the time rather than a tentpole.

    Re-reading Vern’s review of John Carter, which raised the issue of why “John Carter” was in any way a baffling title… Hollywood has largely gotten out of the habit of selling movies on the basis of their story or premise, and are expecting brand recognition (i.e. having heard of the main character) to do all the work. JC wasn’t sold to the audience on the premise of “Civil War veteran gets transported to the version of Mars that people used to think existed”. That premise could have made for a cult movie pitched at the steampunk crowd. Instead the advertising was effectively “John Carter. You haven’t heard of this franchise before. He fights monsters or something.”

    Same with Lone Ranger – instead of “What if a cowboy and a Native American teamed up to fight crime?” the message to the audience was “That character you’ve barely heard of, in a genre you don’t like, and the starring role is actually his sidekick.” (Or “Now Hollywood wants to mock and politicize The Lone Ranger” depending on your age and/or politics.)

    In the Comic-Con era, Hollywood has kind of painted itself in a corner by having every tentpole movie be based on some existing brand whose core audience is not only very small, but overly protective and therefore eager to create bad publicity about a movie before it even comes out. I wonder how much longer that dysfunctional marriage can continue. Maybe it’s even worse for Disney because their model has always been to make movies about older, existing characters and stories. Maybe it’s finally time to put away all the pre-21st-century pulp and tell some new stories for a change.

    *I don’t watch enough cable TV news to join in the manufactured rage against particular networks and their anchors, but I’m guessing this Brit Hume person is somebody from that world.

  37. Good review, Vern. Can always rely on you to buck the hate/love dog pile that surrounds most big releases.

    PIRATES always left me cold. They always looked like something I would enjoy, but when I start watching I always get sidetracked by the irritatingly confusing maguffin hunts (“I want THIS thing so I can control THAT thing in order to get SOME OTHER thing,”). I guess this is somewhat intentional but it always felt like the script was a draft or two away from being ready.

    A buddy gave a great reason why PIRATES (the first one, anyway) doesn’t really hold up. The production design and intricate direction (and of course, Depp’s mugging) are all fun to watch, but the story/tone is just that little bit off… Geoffrey Rush and his undead pirates want a piece of gold so they WON’T be unstoppable zombie pirates? GOOD! Give it to them! JUST GIVE IT TO THEM!

  38. ‘The Phantom, The Shadow, The Green Hornet, John Carter” they didn’t bomb cause the were old timey adventure hero movies; they bombed cause they were shit movies with crap pacing, disjointed plot lines and shitty hero (except for the shadow). can u believe Seth Rogen as a hero, wtf??!!

  39. Yeah, that’s why the Transformers movies bombed so hard. Oh wait…

  40. But in all seriousness, analyzing why some movies are successful while others aren’t, comes always across as pretty useless to me. Sometimes you just make something, that a lot of people want to see right now. Sometimes these people don’t care or will check it out later.

  41. man, I remember back in 2006 when PIRATES 2 was tearing shit up at the box office, too bad TLR is not having near the same success (of course, I’m part of the problem since I have not seen it either, but I gotta save my cash for IMAX PACIFIC RIM)

    as for the Depp Tonto controversy, can we all just…..lighten up a little bit? there’s so much real life racism going on in the world that getting all worked up over which movies might or might not be racist seems a little misguided

    Disney especially just can’t fucking win when it comes to this, I’m glad to see Vern point that out, be it POCAHONTAS or THE PRINCESS AND THE FROG, people act like Disney should be forbidden from depicting any non-white characters, I don’t get it

    but people love to hate on Disney in general for anything and it just seems ridiculous to me, they’re not BP or Haliburton for crying out loud, any studio that brought Hayao Miyazaki’s films to America is alright with me

  42. Although to be honest, they only distributed Myazakis’s movies, because they were scared that they would make their movies look bad at the box office. But we shouldn’t hold it against them. The Weinstein’s would have just buried them in their vault. (Or released them DTV with a hip hop soundtrack.)

  43. “The Weinstein’s would have just buried them in their vault. (Or released them DTV with a hip hop soundtrack.)”

    exactly, Disney gives them the respect they deserve

  44. it is funny how both sides of the political spectrum love to get offended over stuff in entertainment

    on the right it’s because stuff is either gay (remember when they said Spongebob was gay?) or Occultic or whatever

    and on the left it’s because stuff is either sexist or racist

  45. I only get offended when stuff is just plain fucking stupid (Adam Sandler’s movies)

  46. CJ Holden – “But in all seriousness, analyzing why some movies are successful while others aren’t, comes always across as pretty useless to me. Sometimes you just make something, that a lot of people want to see right now. Sometimes these people don’t care or will check it out later.”

    Sadly, this chancer is doing just that, and charging handsomely for the privilege (or so he says).


  47. Yes, we all know that Hollywood is a meritocracy where only the finest craftsmanship is rewarded with commercial success.

    In reality, though, a movie bombing means people didn’t buy a ticket to it, not that they didn’t like it. You actually have to see a movie to tell if it has bad pacing, etc. That’s the way seeing movies works.

    To quote our illustrious host on SPEED RACER:

    “Turns out people didn’t want to see it so much so now my internet movie nerd colleagues are pointing fingers: it is because people hate the movie, so after they paid the money for it they travelled back in time and did not pay the money for it.”

    Success and quality are unrelated. That’s why there are tons of successful movies nobody will admit to liking a year later.

  48. I read that NYTimes article, and the guy sounds like an idiot. The problem with his method is that tastes change. Different genres go in and out of style. And as we saw with the White House invasion movies, people might have different reactions to pretty much the same plot. The one quote that stuck out for me was the movie studio guy who mocked screenwriters: “The only people who are resistant are the writers: ‘I’m making art, I can’t possibly do this.’ ” God I hate Hollywood.

  49. ‘“Demons in horror movies can target people or be summoned,” Mr. Bruzzese said in a gravelly voice, by way of example. “If it’s a targeting demon, you are likely to have much higher opening-weekend sales than if it’s summoned. So get rid of that Ouija Board scene.”’

    This is my quote of the year. I try to sneak this into any script meeting I can, regardless of what the film is about.

  50. yeah, because making every movie exactly the fucking same is totally not gonna make everyone bored with the entire art of movies and give them up for one of the many other entertainments available today

  51. I don’t see any big mystery why Lone Ranger is having problems, they released it at the busiest time of year and got caught standing when the music stopped. Why couldn’t they have just waited a couple of weeks?

  52. Mr. Majestyk – speaking of NATIONAL TREASURE, isn’t it weird how they never bothered to make a third movie?

  53. Well, according to imdb it’s “In development”.

  54. yeah, but imdb says a lot of shit that’s never gonna happen is “in development”

    like the live action Evangelion movie, if ever there was a movie that’s 100% not going to happen it’s that and yet imdb refuses to remove it from the “in development” page

    I imagine that if a third NATIONAL TREASURE flick was gonna happen it would have happened already

  55. Vern, I could not agree more. I was starting to think I had gone crazy since I enjoyed the movie but had seen nothing but vitriolic rants it against it in the days since.

  56. The Original... Paul

    July 9th, 2013 at 12:14 pm

    I have no idea who these characters are, and was kinda neutral on “Pirates of the Caribbean” (didn’t think it was great, didn’t think it was bad); so, as probably the nearest thing you can get to having zero preconceptions of what a Lone Ranger movie *should* be, should I go to see this movie?

  57. grimgrinningchris

    July 9th, 2013 at 4:11 pm

    Gore Verbinski should be a much bigger name by now.
    He’s directed a gazillion dollars worth of movies but I think his name is still pretty foreign to the casual movie-goer.

    Anyone who can make Bad Religion videos, MOUSEHUNT, THE RING, THE MEXICAN and the first 3 POTC movies not only had skills, but tremendous RANGE as well.

    How fucking great is MOUSEHUNT?!?!

    Speaking of names…the studio sure is trying to push Armie Hammer into marquee stardom by shoving his name down everyone’s throats in all the promo. Guy’s obviously solid so he has the skills, I just think they are jumping the gun. Reminds me of when SAHARA came out and all the promo and trailers made a huge deal about “DIRECTED BY BRECK EISNER!!!!!” as though that meant anything to the average movie-goer (or anyone else for that matter).

  58. grimgrinningchris

    July 9th, 2013 at 5:21 pm

    This is very important. It may have been discussed above already but I am being really careful about how deep I read into the comments to avoid spoilers- but does the score incorporate the William Tell Overture at all?

  59. The William Tell Overture plays during the best 10 minutes of the movie.

  60. grimgrinningchris

    July 9th, 2013 at 6:15 pm

    Thank you, wadew.

  61. This is one fascinating movie all around. Every facet of it intriguing with all the story-lines going currently. Has Depp gone to far with the weirdness? What was Disney thinking? etc. How about the hardcore death scene for a certain character? I thought this was supposed to be a kid friendly film. Not sure, need to watch it again but it took some gargantuan balls to get this thing made. For my money the first and last acts of the film were top shelf. You are not gonna see better action set pieces this whole summer. The love interest could have hit the cutting room floor to help w/ time constraints but I suppose they wanted that female aspect for the women out there.

    Vern, with regard to your friends and political correctness: some people are just malcontents. They’ll never be satisfied with anything. So idealistic but certainly not realistic. I should know since I’m frequently surrounded by them.

    So many questions – I do think Depp should play somebody that isn’t wearing any kind of garb or makeup for a change of pace. Yeah, I know he did The Rum Diary but that was more of a tribute for you his buddy.

  62. GQtaste: he’ll next be playing a scientist resurected as a computer program destined to bring on the Singularity, so lets see if he can pull a funny walk off with that one.

  63. It only now occurred to me that this Lone Ranger isn’t wearing light blue like the character usually does. That’s why it’s a flop! The fans will NOT stand for this.

  64. By the way, I know you said years ago that you don’t want to review Guillermo del Toro movies, because a very nice quote from him is used to advertise your books, but can we expect a PACIFIC RIM review? I just would like to know in advance.

  65. I’ve always wondered, does the Seagalogy quote mean Guillermo del Toro reads this site? if so could he be READING IT RIGHT NOW!?

    if you are reading this, you should totally post here dude, I mean come on, it’s obscure enough, nobody’s gonna harass you or make a big fuss, be a bro

  66. I mean dude, be the one celebrity with the balls to post somewhere other than one sided Twitter, it would be epic

  67. Also we already had Albert Pyun, Joseph Khan and the director of the NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET remake commenting here. We are okay with it.

    Anyway, I don’t know if GdT reads this websight, but he definitely read AICN, which is where the quote comes from, if I’m not mistaken.

  68. Knox Harrington

    July 10th, 2013 at 11:05 am

    Joseph Khan commented? Where? When? I wanna hear what that prick has to say.

  69. Knox Harrington

    July 10th, 2013 at 12:30 pm

    Wow, the dude comes across as quite cool and approachable in those comments. I almost feel bad for calling him a prick (which I shouldn’t have done anyway, since this isn’t the place for it), but he really was an asshole when I worked with him.

    Moving on. I wonder who’s gonna comment next. And will anything ever be as cool as that Demon Dave thread?

  70. Knox Harrington

    July 10th, 2013 at 12:31 pm

    Oh, and thanks for the link, Majestyk.

  71. Knox: Do you think that’s a music video thing? A lot of directors who come out of that field seem to have reputations for being difficult/assholes, and everybody I know who’s ever worked on a music video says that it just fucking sucks. Everybody’s an arrogant prick and they work you to death for no money. Shit, I even have a friend who’s a music video director (goes by Dan the Man, does a lot of New York street shit: 50 Cent, Mobb Deep, etc.) and while I’ve only ever worked with him as a writer, I can see him being a nightmare on-set. Thoughts?

  72. It might be the old James Cameron explanation: The director is not there to make friends. Someone invested a shitload of money into his project and now its his responsibility to deliver a great product.

    I can imagine this goes thrice for commercial and music video directors, since they not just have to deliver their product in lesser time, but the end result is not allowed to stand on its own, since it should animate people to buy something else.

  73. Knox Harrington

    July 10th, 2013 at 1:36 pm

    I don’t know, man. They’re obviously under a lot of pressure, especially on commercials, where they sometimes have tons of responsibility and very little actual say over how things turn out. I just think there’s no excuse for treating people like shit. We don’t have to be friends, but at least show some common courtesy. He never said anything to me, but I hated how he treated some other people on set.

    I did a commercial with John Cleese last week, and even though he was a tough old bastard and not nearly as jovial as you’d expect, he was still an absolute professional and very decent.

    Anyway, I’ve got 4 hours before I need to get up and go to work, so I’m gonna get some sleep. Hopefully when I check in again Gore Verbinski will have joined the comments section and called someone a douche.

  74. Yeah, I’ve worked on tons of commercials and not experienced very much dickery, which is why I was wondering if it was part of music video culture.

  75. I imagine it is part of music video culture, since it involves musicians

    could you imagine how much of a prima donna a Bieber or Lady Gaga or Taylor Swift is on set?

  76. Man, I am shocked that Vern loved this movie so much. There’s a lot to like about it, sure, (well choreographed and filmed Spielberg-esque action sequences, meticulous costume and set design, touches of Deppian weirdness) but I found it to be a textbook example of a movie that’s ashamed of it’s source material. I’m not particuarly attached to the character, but even I was annoyed with the way they take special care to make fun of everything about him, including but not limited to his hat, his horse, his name, his catchphrase and especially his mask. I wouldn’t think the concept of an outlaw wearing a mask would be that ridiculous to modern audiences, but apparently they deemed it a concept so foreign and toxic that must be safely quarantined within half a dozen post-modern winks to the audience.

  77. To paraphrase a quote from Martha Plimpton in a females in the industry roundtable discussion from the doc. “Searching For Debra Winger”: “Who gives a *bleep* about a ‘strong woman’, gimme an interesting character”. Story and character is the thing. Making Tonto more front and center “not just a sidekick” assertive is all fine and good, but doesn’t in and of itself make for an interesting character. Nothing, and I mean NOTHING, in this movie’s trailer suggests so much as an ounce of compelling characterization invested in any of it’s players or any better storytelling or “comedy” than Pirates 2,3. I mean, modern big budget trailers can make ANYTHING look halfway appealing. And as much as I believe a movie should be seen to be judged, I just can’t take it lightly when a trailer can’t even make a movie look worth a minute of one’s time. So much so, that I’m holdin a free-pass, and I still can’t quite make that move.

  78. Crustacean – I’ve seen that complaint in other reviews (like Devin Faraci’s) but the more I think about it the more I disagree. The instance I can think about is the one at the very end that I mentioned in the review, when he says his catch phrase and Tonto tells him to “NEVER do that again” and he looks embarrassed and says “sorry, I got carried away” or something. First of all, it made me laugh, I thought it was a funny joke. And it’s funny because it comes out of the established personalities of these two characters. The Lone Ranger in this movie is a square and we laugh when his showmanship goes wrong (like his line at the beginning about the train’s destination being the future) but we’re supposed to like him for it. We know he’s well meaning and we agree with him, he just doesn’t fit into this world. On a meta level the joke is about the Lone Ranger being corny to modern audiences, but within the movie I think we’re supposed to be charmed by the gesture, even if Tonto’s not.

    Let me ask you this, if it had not made a joke out of it, and ended with him saying that with no punchline, would you have thought it was cool? I might’ve, ’cause I love shit like THE PHANTOM, but I feel like most of the people who hate this movie would have hated the earnest version even more.

  79. Oh, and no ACR rating, Vern? I’d put this movie on a 4.5 or maybe even a 5.

  80. Vern: I don’t know, most of the time I felt like we’re supposed to side with Tonto in thinking this guy is a dork and a half-wit. The whole movie is so focused on Tonto’s smart, quirky and capable character that it’s hard not to be. It would have been cool if the Lone Ranger had used his law knowledge to figure out the bad guys plan or something. Something to show us that he’s a smart guy with the wrong skillset and not a moron.

    Would I have preferred the catchphrase with no punchline? Yeah, probably, although it wouldn’t have fit in with this particular movie. I guess it left a bad taste in my mouth that the last scene with the Lone Ranger was another post-modern eye-roll. But really, if they felt his mask and catchphrase are dumb, the correct thing to do is to get rid of it, not point it out to the audience so everyone can laugh at it. I had my problems with IHOP PRESENTS: SUPERMAN’S 7/11 ADVENTURE, but at least that movie had the balls to get rid of everything it felt didn’t fit into it’s vision.

    But I don’t mean to give the impression that I hated this movie. I liked it fine. I was just surprised that you loved it as much as you did.

  81. Dikembe Mutombo

    July 13th, 2013 at 8:54 am

    I was gonna skip this, but when I saw Vern gave it a positive review I decided to catch a matinee.

    Too much movie. Felt a little Transformers-y to me, with the constant lame humor and the need to constantly undermine/mock its core concept. Train climax just about worth price of admission by itself though. Glad they had the guts to use the William Tell Overture, as soon as the opening notes sounded my blood started pumping. It’s the most exhilarating action sequence of the year. The way the movie sprang to life for that finale reminded me of how in a John Landis movie it suddenly becomes a million times more animated when there’s the promise of vehicular destruction.

    I’m not one of the folks who thinks Johnny Depp had no business playing an American Indian; I think if you write a good character and the actor steps up, the rest basically takes care of itself. I liked the idea of Tonto being his own man and not just the Ranger’s sidekick, but making him the village idiot didn’t seem like a great alternative either. I have to say that he and Ranger did have some pretty winning chemistry together by the end… I wouldn’t mind seeing another movie of them playing off each other, but that ain’t happening now.

    I did like that tonto at one point says “stupid white man” which I believe is a callback to the “stupid fucking white man” guy from multiple Jarmusch movies.

  82. I know I’m late to the party, but — do you guys really think that if this movie was a hit, it would have led to more Native American characters in movies? Because it seemed to me that it was a cynical casting choice, “audiences will see anything with Johnny Depp acting strange and idiosyncratic”, and I think the lesson they would have taken would have been “let’s cast Johnny Depp in even more outlandish roles”, not “let’s make more movies featuring Native American protagonists”.

    I’m totally on board with the idea that the liberal crowd (myself included) often demand an all-or-nothing approach that leaves out room for gradual progress; I just don’t know that this movie would have been even a slight step in the right direction.

    I mean it’s not like LAST OF THE MOHICANS or DANCES WITH WOLVES led to significant roles for Native actors, and those movies were hugely successful.

  83. Knox Harrington

    July 30th, 2013 at 2:27 pm

    Which reminds me of how awesome Mel Gibson is for not casting some white dude as the lead in Apocalypto.

  84. Knox Harrington

    July 30th, 2013 at 2:28 pm

    Then again, he cast a white dude as Jesus.

  85. Tugboat – no, I don’t think that, that’s not what I’m arguing. I’m just saying that the idea of Depp taking away a role from a “real” Native American is misguided because the movie wouldn’t exist without him and nobody would be playing Tonto. And although I didn’t really say this in the review I suppose it also means that all the “real” Native Americans who play all of the other Natives in the movie would’ve been out of this gig. Is there another movie this summer – this year – that has a Native American in it? Not that I can think of. And I don’t know of another one this year that is explicitly about the mistreatment of the Native Americans by white people, and if there is one it is for sure not a $200+ million dollar Walt Disney movie aimed at mainstream audiences.

  86. Hey thanks! I didn’t think anybody would read that. Yeah, that makes a lot of sense to me.

  87. And of course now that I think about it, TWILIGHT is the last big-budget movie / series I can think of with prominent Native American roles, and I don’t remember it bothering anybody that they cast a white guy for that one, too.

    It does still kind of bug me a bit that any darkly-complexioned actor can get away with claiming to be Native American and enjoy the air of faux mysticism it gives them (I remember Keanu Reeves playing a “full-blooded Indian” in Even Cowgirls Get the Blues) and everybody will just kind of go along with it. Johnny Depp’s claim that he’s part Cherokee is almost definitely not true.

  88. Good point about Twilight, I didn’t think about that. According to wikipedia, Lautner also claims “distant” Native American heritage. I haven’t heard anyone demand that he prove it, but maybe they have.

  89. When Tonto is making trades with the dead rangers, he gives one of them the peanut box that the kid from the diorama was eating. What’s up with that guys? Is the whole movie just the kid’s fantasy?

    I never would have seen this film had not Vern praised it and I’m glad I did. I never would have expected to enjoy a Depp performance so much in 2013. I knew absolutely nothing about The Lone Ranger’s place in culture before seeing the film, and much of the debate concerning its extra textual intricacies are totally lost on me.

  90. Not like IMDB is a great barometer of taste, but i was kind of glad to see this got a 6.7 on there – normally people just gang-pile on famous flop movies and give them 1’s or 2’s without even watching the thing. And this is definitely not a 1 or 2, which is too bad for those expecting another Wild Wild West or Jonah Hex (even though I liked Jonah Hex more).

    This is a surprisingly thoughtful, beautifully shot, well-acted movie with a great first 1/3 and a rousing final 1/3, and a soggy middle section (but it’s not that bad). I don’t care what anyone says, Tonto is the shit. He’s funny and badass and despite the commercials he’s nothing like Jack Sparrow. His origin story is heartbreaking. The plot is a little too long but it’s streamlined and cleaner than Pirates or that Orci/Kurtzman shit. The action is well shot, and on a strictly action movie level, I’ll say the villains’ comeuppances may have been the most satisfying of last year. Sure, the music at the end is a cheat, like the Superman-theme appearances in Superman Returns, but who gives a shit. It works and it gets the blood pumping in a way summer movies used to do.

    By the way, if this was a hit and they had a sequel, would they continue with The Lone Ranger’s only-killing-by-accident policy? And it’s kind of weird he has qualms about killing the man who ATE HIS BROTHER’S HEART when he just blew up about 5 people with the booby-trapped mine-cart and he seemed cool with Tonto slitting some guy’s throat in the mine.

  91. Just yesterday someone told me “I watched LONE RANGER. It was awesome!”
    (I still have to watch it, though.)

  92. I just saw this and I agree with Vern. It was a fun adventure and when the William Tell Overture started playing with the Lone Ranger riding his horse over roof tops and in train cars I couldn’t help but smile. I thought both Depp and Hammer did a great job and had great chemistry. The action was clear, put together well and the only complaint I would have was that there wasn’t enough.

    I have no problem with Depp playing a Native American, but I’m not a Native American, so I’m not sure anyone would care what I think. I don’t understand this idea that actors can only play what they already are, i.e. gay, handicapped, Indian, etc. I can understand those groups feeling slighted that an effort wasn’t made to represent them to their own ideals, but that’s not realistic and it’s not acting. I say as long as they don’t put them in black face, or Asian eye makeup, it’s all good. That said, I would probably be annoyed if Depp was cast as Helen Keller or Gloria Steinem. Aw, who am I kidding. I would love to see Depp playing Helen Keller or Gloria Steinem!

    I agree with Vern that you can’t win in an argument about properly representing all races. Everyone has their own idea about what is proper, but that it doesn’t mean they should just stop trying. Maybe stretching some boundaries and picking an actor on their ability to play the part well, such as Depp as Tonto, rather than pigeon-holing a Native American in that role will lead to somewhere down the line when they’re casting a race neutral character they’ll pick a Native actor instead of defaulting to a white guy. Maybe that’s just me trying to see a melting pot through my rose colored glasses.

  93. Maggie, I love the dialogue that kicks off that William Tell Overture scene –

    Lone Ranger, attempting to be cool “Hi Ho Silver, away!

    Tonto, knowing better “Don’t EVER do that again.”

    And thus, bringing THE LONE RANGER into the Post-Modern 21st century.

  94. I finally caught up with this last night as the finale of something, that accidently turned into a seriously-good-movies-with-bad-reputation Triple Feature* and yes, I got nothing to add. It is a highly watchable and entertaining movie, with some of the most innovative action scenes ever and I can’t wait until the inevitable sequel in 25 years. (After the box office bomb became a beloved cult classic by a new generation of geeks.)

    *The other two I watched were the Russel Mulcahy co-scripted Sharks-in-a-flooded-supermarket movie BAIT and the red haired ROCKY HORROR stepchild SHOCK TREATMENT, which turned out to be a scary prophecy of today’s TV landscape and worship of plastic stars!

  95. Any impression on BAIT, CJ? I haven’t heard any opinions on it yet, good or bad.

  96. It’s a competent B-movie. Apart from 3D moments where lots of stuff is flying and poking at your eyes (I saw it in 2D and can’t comment on the quality of it), they never go DEEP BLUE SEA crazy. But they don’t waste too much time with setting up the human drama and later the characters don’t act all braindead. Not even the spoiled girl and her douchebag boyfriend (although they can be annoying). It’s not a revolutionary landmark in the group-of-people-trapped-with-a-deadly-creature movie, but has some cool ideas and except nudity, has everything you (or at least I) want from it. Plus it’s short. Something like 85 minutes before the credits run.

  97. I liked BAIT. CGI sharks are rarely all that satisfying but it’s a great premise, executed competently. It’s a few notches above the usual SyFy shark movie nonsense.

  98. Yeah, exactly, it’s what a SyFy original movie would be like, if it would be made by and with people who aren’t incompetent idiots or try to be “ironic”.

  99. Re – BAIT, Thanks for the heads up. No one said it’s as bad as SHARK NIGHT so I’ll check it out. Another good Aussie Shark movie is THE REEF. Good characters and the low budget makes them keep it scary through implication, like OPEN WATER.

  100. when you said BAIT for a second there I thought you were talking about that Jamie Foxx movie

  101. BAIT is better than SHARK KNIGHT (not the real title but a man can dream, can’t he?) but there’s nothing in it that makes me laugh as hard as the guy who just got his arm bitten off sobbing and emoting as he runs out into the water to fistfight a shark. That’s that David Ellis straight-faced retardation I will miss so much.

  102. CrustaceanLove

    May 4th, 2014 at 6:19 pm

    “A few notches above a SyFy movie” describes BAIT pretty well. It’s competent and thankfully free of irony, but it’s not as ridiculous as I would have liked from a “sharks in a supermarket” movie. I did like the part with the DIY shark cage. And Sharni Vinson needs to eat all the sandwiches.

  103. Late to this one, but really liked it. Noticeably more violent than any of the PIRATES and I would probably watch it again over any of them (not ’cause of the violence, but because of the PIRATES films bothered me with their increasingly convoluted multiple-Maguffin plots).

    It was a bit overlong, but it wore its heart on its sleeve and the William Tell sequence was brilliant. Someone compared it to TRANSFORMERS in the comments above; don’t get that at all, on any level. Plot and action were laid out like a well-oiled watch.

  104. Okay, the 2nd time around, the constant tonal shifts from goofy comedy to PG-13 ultraviolence annoyed me a little and I think all in all it could lose 10 or 15 minutes in the middle section, but it still remains highly watchable and underrated.

    All in all, my final verdict for the DG2LABOBT* is

    #1 John Carter (Has the most complete script and even tone)
    #2 Lone Ranger (A very close #2. A more careful rewrite from the rejected Werewolf version would have helped IMO)
    #3 Tomorrowland (Doesn’t make much sense, but is super fun and will most likely inspire generations of kids)

    *See JOHN CARTER comments.

  105. i have no idea where else to put this, but have any of you guys seen RED SPARROW? holy fucking shit. what a movie. just thinking about the takes in the comments section of a hypothetical review of that joint is making me laugh out loud.

    Justin Haythe’s Poorly Recieved Large Budgeted Studio Released Weirdo trilogy (THE LONE RANGER, A CURE FOR WELLNESS, RED SPARROW) really is something to behold. if you were into the first two instalments and haven’t seen RED SPARROW yet, and can deal with the regrettable reality of Gore Verbinski not being its director, i enthusiastically endorse giving it a shot.

  106. I’ve been on a Gore Verbinski kick, having rewatched all his PotC, Rango and then the Lone Ranger for the first time and it’s really sad he is considered box office bomb nowadays.

    The dude has the best eye for blockbuster action with the climax of Lone Ranger as his magnum opus.

  107. I LOVE Gore Verbinski. His collaborations with Elliot and Rossio represent some of the best-written blockbuster filmmaking of the modern age. I have no idea why All 3 parties seem to have fallen out of favor with executives. They are tremendous talents and unique voices.

  108. Well, LONE RANGER and A CURE FOR WELLNESS (which I would consider his only movie that is too long, although I still love it) were pretty expensive box office bombs, so it’s understandable that he ended up in director’s jail. Still a shame though. The modern blockbuster landscape needs people like him, who are still mainstream, but full of fresh ideas and immensely talented.

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