Have I really gotten so cynical about mainstream criticism that the second something is said to be a flop, I naturally assume it must be an underrated and misunderstood gem? This was the feeling I had when I decided my birthday film this year be the new "Lone Ranger" film. Everyone was saying it sucked, and I could only find one theatre still playing it, so naturally I said "Gotta get me some of that, make up my own damn mind."
Though I confess that as the lights dimmed, I got a sinking feeling that maybe there was a reason everyone hated it. Maybe the critics were right for a change. Did I just drag my family to a dud just because I no longer trust what I read online?
Hi-Yo, Spoilers, AWAYYYYYY!!!!!
I should have known better than to entertain nagging doubts.
Here is the truth: This movie is cheesy. It's tongue-and-cheek, it's silly, and it knows this and milks it for all it's worth, making sure you're aware based on lampshade hanging and Johnny Depp mugging.
If you go into this movie expecting anything else, you will be sorely, sorely disappointed. Though I don't see how anyone could expect anything else after having seen any footage from any trailer whatsoever. I'm also not well-versed in Lone Ranger lore, so I can't speak to its faithfulness, but I suspect that Ranger buffs seeking a SERIOUS BUSINESS adaptation will also be sorely, sorely disappointed.
However, if you go in expecting something cheesy, tongue-and-cheek, and silly that knows it and milks it for all it's worth, making sure you're aware based on lampshade hanging and Johnny Depp mugging; and especially if you're the kind of person like me who likes all that kind of thing, especially the Johnny Depp Mugging part, then you'll be immensely satisfied and perhaps pleasantly surprised.
This movie does a lot of things very well, most notably the production design is amazing. So is the acting, for what it's trying to be, and the meat of this movie is seeing how the characters interact off of each other. The action scenes are very exciting, and the climax is one of the more thrilling I've seen in a while and beautifully done.
The plot isn't doing anything terribly new - It's obvious that Tom Wilkinson's character is the Big Bad the second he's introduced less than ten minutes in - and certain things are choppy and a little weirder than perhaps they should be (carnivorous bunnies? Are we searching for the Holy Grail here?). There are some interesting elements from the Comanche point of view, but it's not saying anything we haven't heard since we first realized that persecution of the natives might not have been such a good idea after all, so your mileage will vary as to whether or not it's worth driving home once again.
There is, however, this wonderful framing device of old Tonto telling the story to a young Lone Ranger fan in a sideshow (as an aside, the old-age makeup on Depp is fan-freaking-tastic). As it's established that Tonto is not completely there, this could be evidence the weirder embellishments are coming from an unreliable narrator. Then again, maybe the movie doesn't want people to read that deeply into it in the first place:
*Tonto has just appeared in the desert when the last time we saw him was in a jail cell*
Kid Ranger Fan: Wait, how did you get out of jail?
This movie operates heavily on the MST3K Mantra, and remembering that will get you through it a lot better. I'm still not sure I'd call it a "good" movie per se, but it's certainly not a bad movie - not like people have been saying. I'm very glad I saw it, and I would definitely see it again.
Of course, what else could I expect from a team that pleasantly surprised me exactly ten years ago...