Way back in 1930’s through to the 1960’s, westerns were one of the most popular genres in radio, TV and movies. Actors like John Wayne and Clint Eastwood were huge “cowboy” stars, and are still famous today. However, for the last 30 years or so, westerns have had a VERY rough go of it. A few have managed to be hits, but for the most part they have been met with low grosses. The ones that have succeeded, such as True Grit and Dances With Wolves, are some of the best films of all time. Even the lower grossing ones like Tombstone are great examples of film making. Now, the makers of Pirates of the Caribbean movies have tried their hand at doing to the western what they did with pirates (remember, pirate movies were considered an extinct genre until the Pirates Of The Caribbean franchise made them cool again), but unfortunately, this time they may have placed the final nail in the coffin.
The producers have decided to go back to the golden age and bring the character The Lone Ranger onto the big screen. This character was huge back on the radio in the 30s and on TV in the 50’s, but aside from an utter disaster of a film in the early 80’s has been absent from the public eye for the better part of 60 years. Nostalgia in film making is never a bad thing. It can cause memories of a past time to come flooding back and gives parents a chance to share, with their kids, something they loved as children. But this time out, the nostalgia factor goes back so far that a good chunk of the movie going public has never even heard of the character. When you factor in an obscenely long running time and a story that has been done before (ruthless railroad tycoon will stop at nothing…), it can be a chore for many people to sit through it. But the biggest problem of all is also the same thing that made the Pirate movies such a success; Johnny Depp.
With very few exceptions, Depp has made his career playing quirky and weird. Ever since he became a leading man in 1990, all his characters have a strangeness to them, and it aways worked. A few years ago, once the first Pirates movie vaulted him into superstardom, he started playing different variations of the same character in every movie (think The Mad Hatter, Willy Wonka, Jack Sparrow, etc…) and it usually worked. But his portrayal of Tonto in The Lone Ranger borders on racist and easily drags an already messy movie down.
Of course, the movie isn’t all negative – there are a few bright spots as well. Armie Hammer does a fairly good job as the title character, and proves to be very funny at times. A nearly unrecognizable William Fichtner does his usual superb work as the main villain. Finally, the final 30 minute action sequence set to the iconic Lone Ranger theme music is a outright blast. However, that’s not nearly enough to recommend this nearly 3 hour movie.
This was a troubled production from the start, and was almost cancelled at one point. In retrospect, this one should probably have stayed cancelled.