For Your Consideration: The Lone Ranger
Cast: Johnny Depp, Armie Hammer, William Fichtner, Tom Wilkinson, Helena Bonham-Carter
Director: Gore Verbinski
Writer: Justin Haythe, Ted Elliott, Terry Rossio
Estimated Budget: $215 million
US Gross: $89 million
I’m not American, so The Lone Ranger doesn’t mean a huge amount to me. I’m aware a lot of people were upset with how this film ruined one of their childhood favourites, but to my British eyes it was only a tale of Captain Jack Mohawk and Mr Winklevoss mucking about on horses. The usually trustworthy Empire magazine gave the film four stars, so let’s buckle up and find out if The Lone Ranger was a massive waste of $215 million or if it got a raw deal from fans of the original.
This feature is part of my Razzie 2014 special, and alongside its nod for Worst Picture, The Lone Ranger is also nominated for Worst Prequel, Remake, Rip-off or Sequel, Worst Actor, Worst Director and Worst Screenplay. I hope Depp and Verbinski have dry-cleaned their tuxes.
For the full Citizen Kane of Awful experience, get some friends involved, have a viewing party, whatever takes your fancy. Remember, this feature isn’t about laughing at terrible films, it’s about laughing at them together.
00:00:05 – Oh God it’s 2 and a half hours long. Please be good. Please be good.
00:01:20 – That is a great opening shot. Beginning on the Golden Gate bridge in 1933, the camera cranes around to a red balloon drifting away from a child’s hand on a ferris wheel and then drifts down to ground level in a bustling circus.
00:02:51 – A kid dressed up like the Lone Ranger wanders into a Wild West exhibition and sees a ‘Noble Savage’ AKA Tonto. We creep closer, and closer, and bang. It’s alive! This is tense and pretty so far, but is that Johnny Depp buried beneath some ageing prosthetics? If so, they’ve done a very good job.
00:05:55 – Into the past! Freeze-frame! This is great fun! The William Tell Overture, a slapdash bank robbery and then the deadly duo vault over a table and freeze in mid-air. The little kid interrupts with narration and Tonto turns to face the camera. Not sure I like that bit.
00:06:34 – Colby, Texas, 1869, with some railroad workers toiling in the sun. We’re back in the past again. It seems like there’s going to be a lot of this jumping around in time. Frankly, I’d rather they kept it simpler.
00:07:45 – The owner promises the Comanche Indians in the crowd that “as long as there is peace between us, all land treaties shall be honoured”. Hands up anyone who thinks that promise is going to last?
00:13:51 – Not much going on beside some plot set-up. John Reid (Hammer) is a lawyer on a train journey, with outlaw Butch Cavendish and Tonto held captive in the rear carriage. A group of outlaws are preparing to attack the train.
This is probably a fun time to point out some trivia to you. Armie Hammer (short for…Armold?) is part of the Arm & Hammer dynasty that sold cleaning goods like detergent and toothpaste. Weirdly though, the company wasn’t named after the family. Armie Hammer’s Great-Grandfather, Armand Hammer, was born 31 years after that brand name was in use, so he was either named after a box of baking soda, or bought the company because it had a similar name to him. Either way: weird.
00:17:40 –So far Depp is stealing every scene with some subtle physical comedy alongside some nice visual gags. Great casting choice.
00:21:34 – This is great fun! They’re wrong, they’re all wrong! Tonto and John have broken free to the roof of the train, but they’re manacled together. Some fantastic action follows, with the pair caught on some kind of hook above the track that flings them around, knocking out enemies with every swing. Then John’s brother, Dan (James Badge Dale!), arrives and helps them disconnect the front of the train from the carriages.
00:24:40 – Fantastic! The train runs out of track and catches on the telegraph wire, ripping the nearby poles from the ground and launching the duo into the air. The derailed train comes metres away from crushing them both. Boom. That’s blockbuster film-making.
00:37:50 – The Rangers ride out to recapture Butch, but they’re ambushed in a desert canyon, and get picked off from a distance. Dan gets shot, but weirdly all the assailants stop shooting to allow him and John a heart-to-heart before John gets shot as well. Funny, that. Butch arrives and proceeds to literally eat Dan’s heart. Grim.
00:44:29 – Tonto and a silver horse (I wonder what its name will be…) find John and take him out of the canyon. Depp is great with Tonto’s physical comedy, but he suffers when he opens his mouth. Then, it immediately becomes apparent that you’re watching Johnny Depp doing a slightly Native Americanised version of his real voice and that’s a bit distracting. Incidentally, I feel it’s vital to mention that before this film, my only cultural reference for Tonto was this:
00:47:50 – John inexplicably wakes up on top of a fragile wooden tower built on a steep rocky outcrop. Er…
00:49:35 – Ha! What? There are some crazy cannibal rabbits now. I do remember reading something about how this film was a lot more supernatural at first and they toned it down.
00:55:09 – Er…there’s a person with a buffalo’s head in this brothel. Er…
00:56:07 – The brothel Madame is Helena Bonham-Carter! Yeah! In typically quirky fashion she has a rifle built into her heels which she uses to shoot the chair legs from under a frisky customer.
00:58:08 – Okaaay, Dan was at this brothel last week and he found some kind of cursed rock. Yeah, things are getting a bit weird. This increasingly sci-fi direction is a bad choice.
00:59:42 – Whoooaakay. Let’s stop there for a sec. That was a lot of crazy to process in a short space of time. 1) Tonto intentionally gets his head stuck in a birdcage for no reason. 2) Red (Bonham-Carter) used to have two legs before Butch ate one?! Yeah…this is bad crazy at the moment.
01:07:29 – The duo go to save Dan’s wife Rebecca and her son, but get trapped in a barn by the outlaws. Ok, the barn gets set on fire, but then Silver…well, Silver appears on the roof above them. Erm. Yeah. I’m not really sure what’s going on. Did the original Lone Ranger have so many inexplicable random things like this?
01:10:09 – “Why do you keep calling me Kemosabe? What does it mean?”
“It means, ‘Wrong Brother’”
Oh damn that’s cold.
01:13:20 – Rebecca and her son are taken away to be shot by the man who betrayed Dan, but he can’t bring himself to do it. He shoots into the ground instead and tells them to run. That was quite nicely done. The drama has been pretty solid at times, mainly with the stories around Dan’s betrayal and John’s inferiority complex. Kind of a shame that Dan’s dead then, and perhaps another reason why James Badge Dale is the most underrated actor in Hollywood…?
01:20:05 – In pursuit of Rebecca and her son, Tonto and John get lost in the desert. They are kidnapped by the Comanche and John offers to help defend them in exchange for his freedom: “We have a deal?”
“Not so much.”
Cut to Tonto and Jon buried to the neck. Ha. Beautiful. More great visual gags as the cavalry arrives…and promptly gallops straight over their heads.
1:35:14 – The pair escape and reach the silver mine where Butch is quickly amassing a fortune. They wound him in a dynamite explosion and then have a war of words over what kind of justice Butch deserves. Tonto wants to kill him there and then, but John demands proper legal justice – although we’re kind of ignoring the fact that would probably equate to hanging anyway.
1:43:54 – Ok, John’s finally twigged that Latham Cole, the railway owner, isn’t quite as pleasant as he seems. He’s actually Butch’s brother and the man who helped him slaughter the Comanche village.
1:46:12 – Plenty more Mexican stand-off for all you Western fans. John ends up in front of a firing squad outside the silver mine. Inside, Tonto uses his dead crow to fake a gas leak and panic the miners. The train is sent back out as a precaution and blocks the hail of bullets about to kill John. Yeah…little bit implausible there.
01:52:44 – Rather harrowing there. The Comanche arrive in a shower of arrows, but they’re then mown down with brutal ease by the soldiers’ machine gun. A bit jarring really, considering it’s intercut with Tonto operating a handcar.
01:56:15 – Haha, Tonto and John are talking and we suddenly cut to Silver perched on the branch of a nearby tree. Good horse, funny horse.
02:03:54 – Urgh…okay. More randomness. Cole is opening the railway, but Tonto and Red collaborate to steal the train. Then John basically just appears on the roof of a nearby building astride Silver.
02:04:36 – The William Tell Overture should be playing during every action sequence in existence.
02:10:04 – In the best possible way you need a physics degree to keep track of what happened in that action sequence. Just brilliant action film-making, inventive and joyous. Why couldn’t the whole film be like this? In short, the train is running loose, and is being split into separate carriages by Cole. Pretty much every single character I’ve mentioned is fighting inside and on top of these trains. It’s fantastic.
02:16:10 – Is he going to say it? Is he going to say it…?
“Hi yo Silver, away!”
“Don’t ever do that again.”
02:23:10 – Ooh, a post-credits sting! Although it’s literally just future Tonto wandering through the desert in a suit with his briefcase.
A tale of two trains: both sequences worthy of inclusion among the best blockbuster action film-making. The problem is what comes in between those rip-roaring bookends. The randomness and hints of mysticism kept things interesting, but make for a very confused tone. On the plus side, the script had some strong characterisation in snatches, but dragged on for way too long. Johnny Depp by no means deserves his Worst Actor nomination, nor does Gore Verbinski deserve his nod for Worst Director. As always with the Razzies it’s more about the publicity value of slating a big release or star rather than picking on the really bad films. In the end though, that’s fair enough. I suppose if anyone can take it, it is stars like Johnny Depp and Will Smith.
Although it’s far too long, The Lone Ranger was entertaining throughout and its worst crime was being a bit boring in places. Thereby I officially remove it from my Citizen Kane of Awful rankings. Run free Kemosabe!
So, that’s the end of my Razzie special and all I’m left to do is announce that my official selection for Worst Film of 2013 is…Grown Ups 2! It. Is. Terrible. Here’s why. Join me in a fortnight for the next entry in The Citizen Kane of Awful, which you can vote for below. Your choice is between two films that look truly terrible: Mike Myers in The Love Guru and Thomas Jane in The Punisher.[polldaddy poll=7830540]