Did anyone really want or need a big screen all bells and whistles adaptation of that hoary old load of rubbish The Lone Ranger? Was there really a groundswell of desire in the multiplexes of the world for the paunchy man in the white hat to saddle up and ride again?
I doubt it.
But, good and entertaining films have come from less promising beginnings. The first Transformersmovie worked just fine, and at least two of The Pirates of The Caribbean franchise – which was based on a Disneyland ride - have been watchable films with their hearts and their special effects budgets in the right place. Just because The Lone Ranger traces its whakapapa back to a hopelessly outdated TV show which has no obvious appeal or relevance to a modern audience, that shouldn't be enough to doom the film from the start.
Nope. What dooms The Lone Ranger is a truly dreadful script, boring set-pieces that repeatedly mistake the ludicrous for the imaginative, and – in Armie Hammer – a leading man utterly untroubled by charisma, presence, or any discernible ability to act.
Starting out with the clear intent of telling an origin yarn, or 'how I quit being a mild mannered frontier lawyer, and picked up the mantle and the guns of my slaughtered but more macho brother', The Lone Ranger takes a pitifully long time to get anywhere at all. A series of jarring nods and references to Sergio Leone's Once Upon a time in the West only serve to highlight how bereft of ideas or discipline the story-telling is. Hammer's meeting with Johnny Depp – playing Tonto – is well put together and moderately well choreographed, but the 'action' sequences that follow are interminable and so unrealistic that they cannot maintain any tension. It's as though director Gore Verbinski has handed over control of his film to his stunt co-ordinator and the bloke who makes the digital explosions and said 'fill in an hour of screen time here will you, I'm off for lunch'
Depp, of course, is fitfully watchable. Depp is a fine physical comedian, and even the leaden dullness of his surrounds can't quite keep him down. Beside him Hammer completely fails to register. Tom Wilkinson and James Badge Dale (ironically playing the murdered brother, when he should have been given the lead) both knock Hammer off the screen without raising a sweat, while Depp is visibly bored waiting around for the hapless ranger to get his lines out.
The script tries for a pointless and unnecessary flash-back laden structure that never should have made it past the script editors' desk, and a graphic sequence showing the Gatling gun slaughter of several hundred Comanche warriors is treated as a mere road-bump in the narrative, to be followed by yet another lame joke from Depp. For all these reasons, and many more, I don't think I've enjoyed two-and a half hours in a movie theatre less this year than I did watching this soulless film.
About the only positive I can think of is this: At least it wasn't in 3D.
THE LONE RANGER (M)(149 min)
Directed by Gore Verbinski.
Starring Johnny Depp, Armie Hammer, Tom Wilkinson.
- The Dominion Post