MUTOD: Bad Trade. In “Defense” of The Lone Ranger

In case you were living under a rock for the last two seasons, a movie titled The Lone Ranger came out this past summer.  It was created behind the same minds and visionaries as the Pirates of the Caribbean films, and released by Disney back in July.

This film was savagely hacked at by critics, and faced a number of production problems from budget woes, to shut downs, to delays.

I’m not a math wiz, but here’s a simple one for you:  The budget for the movie was estimated to be around $215 MILLION.  The gross?  Between $89-90 MILLION.  I enjoy emphasizing MILLION this way, because that is SO.  MUCH.  MONEY. (And I want financial backing like that).  Based on the gross, there was $126 MILLION that needed to be made before the film could break even.  Unless everybody in the world gets a DVD this film may never break even — a financial flop if there ever was one.

All and all, it seemed like a total train wreck.  And who doesn’t love watching one of those?

Brrrrrrisco?

Brrrrrrisco?

The reviews didn’t seem to help either, nor did the fact that the last Pirates of the Caribbean was atrociously bad.

It also probably didn’t help that The Lone Ranger is a character who started out as a radio show in 1933, and then had a film in 1956.  Unless you’re an 80 year old fanboy (or 57, depending on what incarnation you grew up with) this is a very difficult character to reintroduce to the next generation because, frankly, there’s not a whole lot to him.  It’s a partnership.

Gee willikers, kids!

Gee willikers, kids!  And other outdated phrases.

It’s like trying to get people invested into Herbie the Love Bug.  Who the fuck over the age of 13 is going to know or care about a talking volkswagen?  Oh wait…fuck.

The only DWI she ever got out of?

The only DWI she ever got out of?

Two friends of the blog, a couple known and frequently referred to as The Jew & Dr. Who™ went to see The Lone Ranger, and damn if they didn’t argue that the film wasn’t as bad as everyone was making it out to be despite the 31% grade it received on Rotten Tomatoes, and despite the cast blaming the critics.

I watched it yesterday, and yeah, it is not the best movie in the world, but it is also far from being the worst.  Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides was much, much worse, in my (ever-so-humble) opinion.

Let’s talk about why the film doesn’t suck as much as most people think it does.

First let’s talk about the ensemble:

Brrrrrisco?

Brrrrrisco?

Nope.

That's better

Yup.

Johnny Depp (only sometimes) disappoints, but he knows how to take a character, like Jack Sparrow and make it his own.

He also mae history as the first white dude with dreadlocks I didn't want to punch in the face. Well, not until the third film, at least.

With a bandanna and dreadlocks

Here he makes Tonto his own…as a slightly more restrained Jack Sparrow….

Tanto_Sparrow

Bandanna, check. Dreads, check. Dead bird? Well…something new has been added!

Depp steals the show, although he shouldn’t.  The one who looks like he’s having the most fun is The Social Network‘s Armie Hammer:

There is a reason why the movie isn't called Tanto

Look, Ken Levine…if you ever needed to cast the face of Booker Dewitt

There is a reason why the movie isn’t called Tanto.  Hammer plays with the role, and is one of the better parts of the movie.  Depp does his silly and zany things, and commits all sort of expo-speak atrocities, but it is really the Lone Ranger’s movie, and I really hope that this doesn’t hurt Armie’s cred.

Next let’s talk about the set pieces

And I don't even remember this one.

And I don’t even remember this one.

…build a bunch of western towns, wrangle some horses, build period trains from scratch?  Also, kill a bunch of birds for Depp’s headpiece:

Yeah, suddenly that $215 MILLION gets eaten away at pretty quickly.

When I discuss set pieces, I don’t always mean locational stuff, but I also mean big choreographed scenes.  In Pirates movies, it could be a ship battle, in The Avengers it was everything.  My rule of thumb is if a Lego got their grubby hands on the property and a set is made of one of the scene, you can consider it to be an “important” chapter of the film; a “big” set piece.

lego-spiderman

Lamest. Hogwarts. Ever.

lego-prince-of-persia

lego-lone-ranger_silver_mine_shootout

Merge it with your Zorro legos for endless fun!

Yep.  Seems about right.

The Lone Ranger boasts some of the coolest choreographed sequences in a feature film.   There are chases, crashes, explosions, and the best goddamn use of the William Tell Overture I’ve ever seen, but the story remains relatively simple, despite its complex action sequences.  It’s not Hamlet…more like Unstoppable.

What other movie could be this blatant?

What other movie could be this blatant?

Say what you want about writers Elliot and Rossio (because I sure have) but they know how to mount Chekov’s gun on the wall and then do a one hell of a dance around it, resulting in having it go off in fairly imaginative ways:

Guess where this fight ends up?

Guess where this fight ends up?

Look, this isn’t a book report, nor is it Mock Trial class, (still bitter about that C+, Ms. Davison) so I’m not going to really sit here and defend every aspect of The Lone Ranger, because there are not enough hours in a day, and frankly you don’t need my opinion to sway you into watching it, because why do you care about what I think anyway?

This movie is a by-the-numbers, popcorn-munching summer movie, and needs to be nothing more.  It was called a “tentpole” movie, meaning that it was supposed to be the beginning of a franchise, a la the Pirates movies (Jesus there are five of them now?), but one installment is all you need, and a lot of money was thrown at into it.

It is a Gore Verbinski film, so it looks fantastic, and performance-wise no one seems to be phoning it in, (not even Tom Wilkinson).  The result is two hours and 30 minutes’ worth of some fun, classic wild west shenanigans.

The moral here is that even though you hear that something sucks, sometimes hopping off the bandwagon and giving it a chance is the best course of action.  Watch it once, maybe when it comes to cable, or on a day when it is snowing and you don’t want to go anywhere.  Or drinking scotch in your tub.  It might not be as powerful or captivating as Captain Phillips, but it beats the shit out of that last Pirates movie.  And at the end of the day you are only as good as your last at bat.

Though when it comes to money and partnerships…weeeellllll…

The people with the spears?  Investors.

The people with the spears? Investors.

About Eric

Frankie “The Red Panda” Funkaducciola RIP Uncle Prime
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