Why is The Lone Ranger such a huge flop at the box-office?
According to the Ranger code: “Never Ask a Question You Already Know the Answer To.” And the answer is really that obvious. Because the movie sucks, that’s why.
Your expectations of how bad The Lone Ranger is can’t trump the reality. The wild, wild West is actually more of a thundering bore than it was in 1999’s Will Smith fiasco, Wild Wild West. The sad part is that it takes down what could have been its saving grace – a subversively funny Johnny Depp who plays Tonto, the Ranger’s Indian sidekick turned mentor, as a means to explode every cliché of the American Indian ever cooked up by racist, “me scalp-em-white man” Hollywood.
Unfortunately, this two-and-a-half hour obstacle course of cinematic horse turds resists redemption even from Depp. Harsh critics insist it’s the film’s tonal shifts that destroy it. Ha! Can you imagine a group of nine-year-olds bitching about “tonal shifts”? The fatal flaw in Jerry Bruckheimer’s monumentally monotonous production is that it forgets it’s duty to entertain. Director Gore Verbinski, working from a DOA script by Ted Elliott, Terry Rossio and Justin Haythe, keeps trying to show how much smarter he is than a filmmaker who would simply wallow in tradition. He and Depp did a better job of that in the animated Rango. Here they’re just putting Pirates of the Caribbean in a saddle and pretending we won’t notice. Burn.
The movie starts with prologue, set in 1933 at a San Francisco sideshow, when a kid who adores The Lone Ranger radio series, finds a geezerish Tonto (Depp in heavy makeup, even for him) and asks him to tell it straight about the masked man and his Indian sidekick. We learn that the Ranger started as John Reid (Armie Hammer), a pacifist lawyer who learns to grow a pair when Tonto teaches him how to avenge the murder of John’s brother, Dan (James Badge Dale). Dan doesn’t just die. Butch Cavendish (William Fichtner), the villain of the piece, cuts out Dan’s heart and eats it. Shades of Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom.
There’s a big action scene involving a train. Then another one. Then a ton more of exposition, about how Tonto and the masked man buddy up. But, in truth, they hardly do. Hammer and Depp never develop a rapport. This is Tonto’s show. But when you’ve seen one scene of a Native American conning a dumb white dude, you’ve seen them all. When the rousing William Tell Overture (the Lone Ranger theme on radio and TV) finally thunders on the soundtrack, you’re too pummeled to care. Captain Jack Sparrow would have swanned away from this dullness the first chance he got. But Tonto, the noble savage, has to stay and represent. Don’t make the same mistake.