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02/08/2021 06:46:32 •••

Like Tonto, often misunderstood

I went into Gore Verbinski's The Lone Ranger with low expectations. Remembered in pop culture only as a major Box Office Bomb and for the Unfortunate Implications of Depp's casting as Tonto, the bad reputation doesn't feel entirely justified. Although it's far from perfect, I had fun with it, and like Quentin Tarantino and the minority of professional critics, I feel that time will be fairly kind to it.

What a lot of people don't seem to clock is that for all its cliché, hackneyed (and, at times, derogatory) Western trappings, Lone Ranger 2013 is a fairly radical, deconstructive adaptation that tears up the mythology of the titular white-hat hero. Like many pulp heroes of radio, magazines and film serials, the Lone Ranger and Tonto truly are modern myths despite not even being that old. If you asked any rando on the street, they would likely pull up the basic imagery — the mask, the horse, the pidgin English, the William Tell overture — but pretty much nobody would actually be able to recall anything substantive about the characters or stories, which were often as fluid and irreconcilable as real life legends. And to many, this film will have been their first exposure to these characters in any form. Whether or not it's a worthy introduction, you'll have to find out.

In this story, John Reid (Armie Hammer) is a prissy, idealistic loser pining after his cooler brother's wife. He takes on the mantle of the Lone Ranger out of sheer dumb luck and spiritual destiny woo, despite having no talents in fighting, shooting, tracking... anything, really. He makes up for it with what essentially amount to luck-based superpowers. His (far more competent) Indian sidekick Tonto is reimagined as a quirky lunatic outcast typical of Johnny Depp, except actually played somewhat seriously. Instead of being inseparable partners, our two heroes barely get along, with racial tensions on top of constant bickering and backstabbing driving a dramatic wedge between them. Instead of generic, unmotivated black-hat Dick Dastardlies, they now team up to fight a horrific hairlipped cannibal bandit (hang on, I thought Armie Hammer was the hero?) and the corrupt establishment. While that all sounds rather grim and po-faced, the film balances a funny, swashbuckling tone reminiscent of the Antonio Banderas Zorro flicks, culminating in some genuinely riveting action sequences.

It's impossible to gloss over some of the more problematic elements of the film. Yes, Johnny Depp is playing a Native American character and it's weird. But in all fairness, Tonto is more nuanced and driven than ever before, far from the dumb ethnic sidekick of old, and I appreciate Depp's commitment to getting the near-extinct Comanche language right. Furthermore, Tonto's status as an outcast in his own tribe seems to be reflected in Depp's controversial casting. Compared to the constant manic energy of Jack Sparrow and the Mad Hatter, Depp is given the chance to play a more stony-faced, Buster Keaton-esque role which is a joy to watch in action, emphasised by the amazingly distinctive makeup and costuming.

The film does suck some ways, don't get me wrong. For one, it does seriously drag in places, it didn't need to be nearly three hours long. Neither the main villainous plots nor the Reid family love triangle are particularly engaging, both being very trite and predictable.

At least two past generations of my family have grown up on the Lone Ranger in his various incarnations. While it came late for me, I like to think I got a similar childish excitement from this film as my forbearers did. Maybe give the movie a chance, kemosabe?

02/08/2021 00:00:00

It\'s a while since I saw it, but I remember part of my frustration with the film was its preference for CGI antics over practical effects. The Lone Ranger\'s finale with the train starts great, but then switches to unconvincing CGI to enable impossible, cartoon reality stunts. I compared it in my head to Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl, which despite having a lot of CGI, that movie stuck to practical and in-camera effects for a lot of its action scenes.

02/08/2021 00:00:00

I don\'t think the usage of CGI is that detrimental, admittedly some of it is plain unconvincing, but the cartoony stunts can be quite charming.


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