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Lone Ranger, The (Blu-ray Review)

20 Dec, 2013 By: John Latchem

Box Office $89.30 million
$29.99 DVD, $39.99 Blu-ray
Rated ‘PG-13’ for sequences of intense action and violence, and some suggestive material.
Stars Johnny Depp, Armie Hammer, William Fichtner, Tom Wilkinson, Ruth Wilson, Helena Bonham Carter, James Badge Dale, Bryant Prince, Barry Pepper, Mason Cook.

To hear the media tell it, this latest version of The Lone Ranger was shaping up to be little more than a “Pirates of the Caribbean” in the Old West. It shared a producer in Jerry Bruckheimer, a director in Gore Verbinski, and bizarrely cast Johnny Depp as Tonto, fueling speculation whether he’d play the character as an eccentric a la Capt. Jack Sparrow. Then there were the tales of the sordid production history, from runaway budgets to rumors of a storyline involving werewolves and other supernatural elements.

Maybe it was a case of lowered expectations from the bad publicity, or maybe it was just “Pirates” fatigue, but whatever the reason, audiences didn’t flock to theaters to see it, which just seemed to further cement the film’s notoriety. And that’s a bit of a shame because there are actually some nuggets of good filmmaking at play here, as well as, dare I say it, a tremendous sense of fun.

The film is certainly not without its problems. It’s a bit long, most of the action setpieces are drawn out and over the top, and it relies too much on corny humor that could be seen in some respects as disrespectful to the iconic status of the characters.

On the other hand, it’s beautifully shot, showing off every dollar of that inflated budget on the screen. It does a good job establishing its characters in a way that’s more or less true to the “Lone Ranger” legend. And while it meanders in the middle, it manages to set all the pieces in place for a thrilling train chase in the final act.

All these elements kind of make The Lone Ranger a perfect movie for home video, which lets viewers gloss over the mediocre parts and focus in on the good stuff.

The story takes viewers back to the thrilling days of yesteryear, recounting how a group of Texas Rangers is ambushed and gunned down by a band of outlaws, with the lone survivor (Armie Hammer) discovered by a Comanche warrior (Depp), who helps him seek justice from behind the protection of a mask. An underlying plot involving illegal silver mining gives the filmmakers a convenient excuse to engage in all sorts of Western movie tropes, such as Indian wars, grieving widows, train robberies, greedy prospectors and plenty of gunfights, all the while paying stylistic homage to the likes of John Ford and Buster Keaton.

The film tries to honor the legacy of “The Lone Ranger” as a franchise by presenting the story through the reflections of an elderly Tonto in 1933 (which happens to be the year “The Lone Ranger” debuted on radio). This provides a wink to the audience that this is just one version of the legend, not an attempt to displace earlier depictions, and Tonto’s role as an unreliable narrator glosses over any plot holes, some of which are explicitly stated by the kid to whom Tonto is telling the tale. (Here’s a bit of trivia: the creators of “The Lone Ranger” later created “The Green Hornet” for the radio, and made that character the son of the Ranger’s nephew.)

Hans Zimmer’s music, while reminiscent at times of his work on the recent “Sherlock Holmes” movies, does manage to establish a few decent melodies, paying off with a rousing rendition of “The William Tell Overture.”

Particularly amusing to film buffs is the fact that The Lone Ranger is so busy re-creating the iconic imagery of the Old West that its readily apparent it was shot everywhere but Texas (Utah’s Monument Valley being the most prominent locale). This aspect of the production is front and center in a featurette focused on Hammer treating his travels from set to set as a kind of road trip.

Other featurettes look at the use of trains in the film, and a cowboy boot camp used to train the actors in the ways of the West. Other than that, the Blu-ray is rather light on bonus materials.


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