The biggest problem with The Lone Ranger isn’t the acting, or the effects, or the cinematography. It’s that for a film in which there’s a lot of action and a boatload of stuff happens, it’s actually kind of … boring.
But before we get to all the bells and whistles and explosions, let’s explore some major problems at the core of this movie. The first big problem is that Tonto (the first-billed Johnny Depp) draws much more of the audience’s focus than the Lone Ranger (the second-billed Armie Hammer). He draws our focus with his outlandish appearance, his curiously twisted backstory, and his comic relief dialogue.
My other major problem with the structure of this film is tangentially related. It’s the movie’s bizarre framing device, in which a very old Tonto is telling the story to a young boy dressed as the Lone Ranger, because …?
Well, honestly, I have no idea. In my opinion, it’s completely unnecessary. What it does is give Johnny Depp even MORE screentime (adding to my first big problem), and further entrenches him in the audience’s mind as the “hero” of this movie. Except, you know, he’s not. Because he’s TONTO, for God’s sake.
And now, back to the bells, whistles, and explosions. Man, but there are a LOT of them in this movie.
There are fireworks, and runaway trains, and fistfights, and gunfights, and stuff going BOOM. There are also MANY human casualties in this film — people are being shot / run over / blown up left and right. I mean, there are enough obvious or implied deaths to make you forget that you’re watching a Disney movie.
I know that it would have been more impressive if I’d seen this movie on the big screen in a theater rather than on a small screen at home. But even so, I spent major portions of this film thinking things like, “Wow, that’s an amazing explosion” or “It looks like they spent a lot of money on this film” … but then my follow-up thought would be along the lines of, “Okay, and NOW what happens?” So while I could intellectually appreciate the action and the special effects, they weren’t engaging enough to get my pulse racing or keep me at the edge of my seat.
I think that it’s worth seeing The Lone Ranger to satisfy your nostalgic curiosity about how this classic story was interpreted, because The William Tell Overture was used to good effect, and because — all criticism aside — the movie LOOKS really cool. I just wish that the Lone Ranger himself had been trusted enough to be the star of his own movie, and I wish that the writing and directing had been more effective at creating an emotionally compelling film.