Despite getting scathing reviews I have to get one thing out of the way first: I enjoyed the Lone Ranger. There I said it. This post will not be about the story; I’ll leave that to you the reader when you see the movie.
Being that I’m not a child of the 1950s who grew up with the iconic “Hi Ho Silver, away!” I come from a vastly different viewpoint. I didn’t watch many of the reruns because by the time I was old enough to watch them the show had been of the air for at least 20 years. I was weaned on the gritty revisionists westerns like Unforgiven, High Plains Drifter, and Pale Rider.
So with all that said what is my reaction to a traditional “White Hat” western? It was a fun movie. Each in his own way turned in very good performances: Johnny Depp’s Tonto and Armie Hammer’s Lone Ranger.
- The pacing was just about right and at no time did it feel like the movie was plodding.
- Special effects were for the most part good and only one instance were they noticeable.
- The soundtrack was excellent. Of course no Lone Ranger movie would be complete without the William Tell Overture which they used skillfully early one and then during the finale.
- Clever reason for the naming of Silver.
- Shoot outs were gripping
- Finale was awesome.
- At one point I was going to bring my kids to see it but the problem arose with the Captain Dan Reid scene involving Butch Cavendish. I read about it before hand and decided to keep my young kids away. This in part explains the issues with demographics I outline below.
- The Lone Ranger as played by Hammer seems “wimpy”. Contrast this with the performance of Depp as Tonto and he is certainly overshadowed. I found Hammer’s awkwardness as the Lone Ranger well done and well acted. Some people have said he was wooden and had no charisma; again that is personal preference.
I can see where Lone Ranger falls into issues with finding the right demographic for this movie but I’m not entirely convinced that it’s the movie that’s at fault rather then Hollywood as a whole. Right now it seems that Hollywood is fixated producing mega hits to maximize the return on every movie. I get that one should always strive for this in any business but at the same time it’s myopic. Not every movie is going to be Avatar. So rather then go for “small” returns the studios are attempting to hit a grand slam everytime the are at bat. The question that Hollywood will have to ask themselves is it better to say clear 50 million on movie or be 150 million in the hole? This is to say nothing of the every spiraling cost of movies themselves that will only acerbate the situation. Its getting to the point where they only see returns of 1 billion as the only outcome worth pursueing.
Another interesting point is that last two times the Lone Ranger has been out on the screen (the Legend of the Lone Ranger- 1981) and this time out the critics savaged it. I get that the 1981 version was bad, but this time the critics seemed to decided they didn’t like it before it even came out. I fully anticipate that "box office bomb” will or already has been ahem saddled to it. In a way it might end up much like the movie Heavens Gate, another western that did poorly against (for then) very high production costs but in later years the directors cut has been seen as actually a quite good movie. Of course its hard to mess up on the true story source material: The Johnson County War.
I don’t think westerns as a genre is “dead” per say, but rather they have an imagine problem. In a world worn out and now wary about anything American, uniquely America focused movies will have a much tougher sell outside of the US. This has always been a problem but has become more of an issue the last few decades. Now Hollywood makes movies with a global audience in mind as it offers a bigger return when it appeals to the entire globe. Problem is trying to be everything to everyone is not going to fly in most cases, or only very rarely.