Most people remember The Lone Ranger for the noble gun-slinging heroics of John Reid, the camaraderie with Tonto, the lightning quick Silver and the classical Revolution theme. However, after watching the new film starring Johnny Depp and Armie Hammer, you'll start doubting if you ever saw the original TV series.
At 22 minutes per episode, The Lone Ranger TV series is stripped down when compared with Gore Verbinski's The Lone Ranger. The TV series played to its central concept so much that it didn't have to rely on special effects or grand production values. Other noticeable changes are that Tonto has become the star of the show, there's less mystery around John Reid's identity and they've turned the insanity up to level 11.
This is not a traditional adaptation of the trusty scout, but one that mimics the current trend to deconstruct or disrespect originals. Gore Verbinski plays up stereotype jokes surrounding Tonto as we see the story unfold through his eyes. This shift in perspective makes it Johnny Depp's film, with Armie Hammer as a reluctant hero under the Karate Kid tutelage of the doubtful Tonto.
As a tag team, Gore Verbinski and Johnny Depp go back to Pirates of the Caribbean, more recently, exploring the darker side of animation with a twisted Fear and Loathing style Western in Rango. This is the lens for The Lone Ranger, trying to follow up as a blockbuster franchise in the broad wake of Pirates of the Caribbean while retaining a suave artistic credibility in the same realm as Rango.
Unfortunately, the real team chemistry focus should have been on co-leads, John Reid and Tonto. While Armie Hammer is a good-looking actor with an innocence and likability factor comparable with Brendan Frasier, he's not quite as charming. This co-lead actor combination was a mismatch before cameras started rolling, and while they set out to exploit the odd couple buddy dynamic through conflict, it never really clicks into place.
This apparent lack of chemistry feeds into the rest of the film, dulling any sense of magic or mystery, and making it an entertaining yet indistinct Western. Instead of making its own wagon trails, The Lone Ranger seems to echo Shanghai Noon and The Legend of Zorro, seamlessly blending into the collective familiarity of train robbery and brothel scenes from these films.
To make matters worse, The Lone Ranger is a bland send-up that never really gives you the impression that we should be in on the joke. For instance, a warren of prairie rabbits simultaneously references the gofers from the new Indiana Jones and the man-eating rabbit from Monty Python & The Holy Grail. Yet in the context of The Lone Ranger, we're not sure if we should be laughing or not.
The Green Hornet, a modern Lone Ranger or descendant, also struggled to find its stride as an action comedy adaptation. While both films have the talent and potential, they just don't add up to the sum of their parts. Luckily, The Lone Ranger's bookends do a lot to save the day... starting and ending with great action sequences.
While The Lone Ranger has the production values, special effects, cast and film-makers to pull off a blockbuster to rival Pirates of the Caribbean, it fails to capture the spirit of The Lone Ranger, reinvent the legend and drive home the entertainment value. We're left with a beautifully shot, fascinatingly eclectic, sometimes funny and often familiar husk of expectations.
The bottom line: Half-hearted