dir: Gore Verbinski
I was told to expect a disaster. We were assured it would be the absolute bomb – total dog of the year.
I wasn’t told that it was episode 5 of Pirates of the Caribbean, because ultimately that’s what this flick comes across as. With Trains!
Johnny Depp simply plays a more boring yet still over-the-top character than he does in the Pirates franchise, and the strongest similarity is that just like most of the character's actions in those nautically and intellectually wet movies, his character's actions here don't make a hell of a lot of sense most of the time either, but they’re meant to be entertaining. Meant is the operative word.
This possibly was meant to be like an origin story for a new Lone Ranger franchise, which strikes me completely as the triumph of wishful thinking over intelligence, but the horrible pre-release press and the dismal box office performance should have staked this idea before it had a chance to flourish.
This isn't a complete disaster, though, as irritating as Depp's Tonto might be, and as ill-considered as the idea was, honestly, there’s nothing wrong with resurrecting the squarest American hero of all time. The Lone Ranger may be a complete unknown to people under thirty, but who’s to say it was the wrong time for a comeback?
Armie Hammer is a decent actor whose time has come. Almost everyone that knows him knows him as the Winkelvoss twins from Social Network, but he’s done a few decent roles in a few decent flicks. Sure, he is the very embodiment of whitebread – lockjawed – square-jawed jockitude, but I find him quite charming, truth be told. I know he looks like he should be playing the fraternity villain in every college-themed comedy, but he’s got something going on.
And he probably was a perfect choice for playing the lead here. The problem is, and I don’t know how I didn’t think this would be a problem right from the start, but the main problem is that resurrecting the Lone Ranger requires having people sit through a film about cowboys. You know, like all those Westerns you no longer watch.
When Caribbean resurrected the fortunes of various people, and the pirate genre, perhaps Gore Verbinski and Depp started thinking they could resurrect any genre, including the Western. Problem with that idea is that the Western never truly leaves us; it’s always lurking around the edges of the cinematic experience, like a creepy, smelly older relative who people need to keep an eye on at family gatherings, especially when they’re near the kids.
I say this as someone who loves the genre and the iconography of the genre, and especially the look of the genre. I’m totally bored of it, though, and Lone Ranger wasn’t going to make me less bored of it, because it’s a pointless adaptation of the genre.
They can sneak a million CGI versions of Monument Valley into the flick, all but lift directly from John Ford and Sergio Leone, but that’s not going to make me enjoy Johnny Depp’s pointless and irritating mugging of the camera in almost every scene.
Why’s he playing a Native American anyway? He’s as much an Apache or a Comanche as I am. Maybe I should have played the role. Plenty of teenagers would have flocked to the cinema to see me dressed up like a cross between Captain Jack and The Crow.
I mean, it's just really actively aggravating. I know that Depp thinks he can do no wrong as an actor, which lets him do a lot of things that probably directors and other actors would wish he didn’t, but I don't think he cares any more, if he ever did. He's probably the weakest part of this whole film, and this is a film replete with weaknesses.
The best example of that is the moment where he places a cage over his head, because the dead crow he has on his head is afraid of a cat, or that he’s afraid on the crow’s behalf. The subtleties of this cringeworthy scene might have been lost on me, along with its humour.
There is some good in this flick. William Fichtner plays a mean sonofabitch and general murderous wanted crim with a hideously scarred mouth. It works, really well, because the disfigurement forces every nasty word to leave his mouth to sound like it's dripping with malice or saliva. He is Captain Barbossa, in case you were wondering about the scheme of things as they are represented here.
There's another villain, but it would be a spoiler to mention his name. Suffice to say that in every film ever made about Wild West times in the States, anyone who ever drilled for oil, ran a railroad or killed Native Americans for no good reason (other than getting their silver) is inevitably revealed to be the dark nemesis who towers over all. It’s just dead white male bashing, it is.
The silver is 'cursed', you know, just like the gold in Pirates. There's a lot of running around to get to a destination, then running away from it, then running back to the same destination, just like in Pirates. There's a woman who's nothing like Elizabeth Swan / Keira "Feed Me!" Knightly, and that has to be a good thing, but she's horribly sad-inducing as the damsel in distress that the bad guys keep threatening, coddling, praising, threatening again, being bored with, wanting to move on from but not knowing how to broach the topic etc etc.
There's a Helena Bonham Carter in here for some reason as well, as a one-legged cathouse Madame with an ivory leg-shotgun. I don't know why she's here either, or why she does any of the things she does in the flick. Maybe she's got pictures of Johnny Depp eating Comanche orphans or something, which means he's compelled to get her a role in every film he's in, but the pointlessness of her role is emblematic, it's not accidental.
The thing that really sticks out like a priest's dick through a confessional's screen is that just like in the last three Pirates flicks, not a lot of what happens is really that coherent or memorable. You can recall images, instances, moments, but it's really hard to remember why it would hang together or why we're meant to care. There's this particular quality of the last three Jerry Bruckheimer-produced Pirates et al flicks for Disney (including On Stranger Tides, which Verbinski didn't direct, Rob Marshall being responsible for that addle-pated waste of time) whereby all the activity, all the action, all that happens and is said seems to just glide off my consciousness. It's impossible to keep track of, impossible to care about, impossible to be engaged by or drawn in by.
Truly this is the apotheosis of the filmic form, no doubt.
There are action sequences, yes, I never said it was devoid of action sequences. There’s berserk action sequences mostly to do with trains, trains flipping over, falling over, generally doing a lot of things trains rarely if ever do.
If there was one moment that was – what’s the word – exciting? Thrilling? it was when, towards the very end of this pointless film, the very famous Lone Ranger / William Tell Overture theme was used for the first time, showing that this tall blonde galoot has embraced this murky superhero persona and decided to act all heroic by getting his horse on the roof of a building and using a lasso to save some people. It was a great moment out of a nearly two and a half hour film.
This ‘joy’ lasted 10 seconds, so don’t think it changes how I feel about it overall. It was a waste of everyone’s time; those who made it and the few who watched it. It’s sloppy, poorly thought out, and mostly boring. I know people were falling all over themselves to crucify it while it was still in production, happily calling it the bomb / John Carter of the year before it lit up the inside of a single theatre, but I was hoping it was a secret triumph.
Which means I’m even more optimistic / dumber than I ever thought possible
5 times Johnny Depp has disappeared up his own arse and come out the other side as an even more annoying version of Johnny Depp out of 10
“Horse says you are a spirit walker. A man who's been to the other side and returned. A man who cannot be killed in battle.” – yeah, but the one place your hopes and dreams can be killed is at the box office, apparently - The Lone Ranger