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The UnPopular Opinion: The Lone Ranger

02.26.2014

THE UNPOPULAR OPINION is an ongoing column featuring different takes on films that either the writer HATED, but that the majority of film fans LOVED, or that the writer LOVED, but that most others LOATHED. We're hoping this column will promote constructive and geek fueled discussion. Enjoy!

****SOME SPOILERS ENSUE****

When you think about modern westerns, you are likely either thinking about smaller scale films like 3:10 TO YUMA or THE PROPOSITION rather than big budget studio films. If you are thinking of studio westerns, you are probably thinking of WILD WILD WEST and just how awful it was. But, the western is still alive and well as long as you don't let the critics sour your opinion. That is because in 2013 we got the best studio western of the last decade, maybe longer. If you are struggling to think of what movie I am referring to, I am clearly pointing at Gore Verbinski's THE LONE RANGER.

THE LONE RANGER topped my list of the most underrated movies of 2013 and for good reason. The movie is a thrill ride of the highest order and the definition of what a Hollywood popcorn movie should be. It has everything you could want in a movie, except for the universal acclaim. I was right there with everyone wondering why the hell THE LONE RANGER cost as much as it did to make, why the movie had so many production issues, and so on. In fact, I wrote off THE LONE RANGER as a lost cause before I even saw it. But, the issue of judging a movie before seeing it is a better discussion for a C'Mon Hollywood. I am here to tell you why THE LONE RANGER is a good movie.

This is the only bomb in THE LONE RANGER.

First off, it is not PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN. I was just as shocked as everyone when THE CURSE OF THE BLACK PEARL ended up being a good movie, but the issue with THE LONE RANGER is that it is marketed as being for fans of Captain Jack Sparrow or Johnny Depp in genereal. While Depp pulls off the role of Tonto well, that is mis-marketing at it's best as THE LONE RANGER is a very specific type of genre film that will not appeal to fans of pirate movies based solely on the star. While Depp is capable of selling pretty much anything, THE LONE RANGER like all westerns should be marketed on the genre. While western fans are typically not going to be enough for a movie to gross over $100 million, Disney didn't even bother to market THE LONE RANGER as an introduction to the genre for kids and movie fans who may not know that the western can be more than just cowboys and indians.

THE LONE RANGER is big budget spectacle at it's best. I can relate to those who think the budget may have gotten out of control, but why do we really care? Since TITANIC and WATERWORLD, the general public has been obsessed with movie budget versus box office. Sure, news of movie productions going overboard date back to the invention of the medium, but can we not find as much enjoyment in a cheap indie flick as we can in a big studio extravaganza? Gore Verbinski and Johnny Depp came out swinging when THE LONE RANGER hit theaters based on the critics panning the film based on budget rather than content. I will always judge a movie once I see it, even if I make a snap judgement based on trailers or reviews. While I hold our critics on JoBlo.com to the highest standard, I will always go with my own personal review as should every viewer. Critical opinion is just that. Hell, you may be reading this and disagree with me. Neither of us is wrong and that is why talking movies and arguing perspective makes for great debate.

At least we weren't subjected to The Lone Ranger and Tonto dressed in drag.

At the heart of it, THE LONE RANGER is not a comedy like the trailers make it out to be. It is the movie that WILD WILD WEST wanted to be but failed miserably at. Armie Hammer is a fitting John Reid, updated and modernized to be a different type of man that becomes the masked vigilante. Some came down hard on Hammer saying he was too slapstick and weak compared to the men who have donned the hat before him. Hammer shows charisma even though he was going shoulder to shoulder with Depp which is an achievement to be noted. Taking the iconic character and changing him, but putting a relative unknown in the role is risky, especially if it falls flat. Hammer goes through a transformation over the film, going from a "city boy" to a Texas Ranger. Verbinski keeps the movie gritty and dingy, like the real West, but with a crisp and beautiful big screen feel to it. In that way, THE LONE RANGER shares a tone and visual cue with PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN. The biggest departure is the supporting roles.

While I loved Geoffrey Rush as Barbossa, THE LONE RANGER is populated by a damn fine cast all around. From Helena Bonham Carter and James Badge Dale in minor roles that have major plot importance to the villainous turns by Barry Pepper, William Fichtner and Tom Wilkinson, THE LONE RANGER is populated by A-list actors doing an awesome job without getting overly hammy in their performances. Fichtner plays his cannibalistic henchman with aplomb while Wilkinson slips right into his well-developed bad guy persona that he has put to great effect in films like BATMAN BEGINS, THE PATRIOT, and RUSH HOUR. You cannot write off any of these actors as giving cliche performances because, while they are all well recognized character types, each actor delivers their part without succumbing to copying someone before them. My biggest regret is the under-use of Ruth Wilson who could have made a damn fine strong female presence if she had only be given a little more relevance to the final plot.

This looks just like the cigar store indian from CREEPSHOW 2.

We don't even need to pretend that there is value in discussing the "racist" portrayal of Tonto because once you actually see the movie, you do realize that Depp is giving us more than a two-dimensional Indian. With the wraparound story and Tonto's quest for revenge, THE LONE RANGER both respects the Native American element of the story while not turning it into an overly-PC take on it. Depp turns in one of his better roles of the last decade in THE LONE RANGER but doesn't steal the show from the rest of the film.

In fact, what steals the show in THE LONE RANGER is the climactic train sequence. Utilizing the signature William Tell Overture from the classic series, the train scene is a masterful balance of Buster Keaton slapstick, over the top action, and top notch special effects. While THE LONE RANGER on the whole is a damn fun time, you will find your money well spent by the time this sequence rolls around. There are few moments in the entirety of the films released in 2013 that can match just how awesome this scene is. It has to be seen to be believed.

Much like JOHN CARTER before it, THE LONE RANGER suffered from the shittiest marketing Disney had to offer. Bad posters, misleading trailers, and a bad string of production issues contributed to people judging the movie before they saw it. Those that did likely were colored by outside influence. What they, and you, need to do, is push all of that aside and watch THE LONE RANGER free and clear of anything but what you see on screen. I am sure you will find fault and may still not like it, but I am pretty sure you will like it more than you expect.

Oh, and if you have any suggestions for The UnPopular Opinion I’m always happy to hear them. You can send along an email to alexmaidy@joblo.com, spell it out below, slap it up on my wall in Movie Fan Central, or send me a private message via Movie Fan Central. Provide me with as many movie suggestions as you like, with any reasoning you'd care to share, and if I agree then you may one day see it featured in this very column!
Source: JoBlo.com

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