I went to see The Lone Ranger again last night, giving up a couple of hours of sleep to enjoy the heart-pounding, fist-pumping joy it gives me. Since I described it here a couple of weeks ago, today I'm just going to highlight some of the wonderful nuances that make this movie so enjoyable.
First, let's start with the whole set-up that an aged Tonto (Johnny Depp) is telling this story to a little boy. How I love this framing device! That little boy is us, the audience, with all his/our preconceived notions of who and what The Lone Ranger was. With that little boy, we say, "He wasn't real." With that little boy, we say, "The Lone Ranger would never rob a bank!" And Tonto tells us the "true" story. Only, because Tonto is not only a biased narrator, but an unreliable and fanciful one as well, the story he tells is quirky and off-beat and not what we -- and that little boy -- expect.
Every time the narrative starts to go off-track, or makes a giant plot leap, or does something that's really quite unrealistic, that little boy is right there with us, going, "Hold it, Tonto! How'd you get out of prison?" And aged Tonto gets to shrug or make some semi-sensical reply, and then go on with the story, that glitch having been dealt with now. Truly brilliant. I know a lot of people have been annoyed by returning to the little boy and the old Tonto, but I think they would be a lot more annoyed if the story just galloped right over those inconsistencies and plot holes.
This movie is beautiful to watch, too. Lots of the action was filmed on location in Monument Valley, and while DKoren doesn't like the sort of faded, washed-out look to much of the movie, I find it apropos. This story is Tonto's memory of things, and as he's very old, his memory is starting to fade, which is reflected in the non-bright colors of his story.
But it's not just the scenery that's lovely. There are some really unique shots, like having a glass of water on the camera lens, and then dripping a red drug into it from above so we see the redness swirl around as it mixes with the water. Beautiful shot. Or when Silver looks down a chimney, it's just the coolest image of his head framed there. Love it.
There are so many other random touches of whimsy and intelligence that I just love. Like when Tonto is "trading" with the dead Rangers, and he gives one of them the empty bag of peanuts that the little boy had given him -- a bleeding-through of the narrative frame into the story itself. Brilliant, and so funny.
I love all the visual details! Like how the aged Tonto has carved all kinds of little symbols into the inside of the frame of his display case at the carnival. I can't wait to get this on DVD so I can study them and see how they relate to the rest of the movie. Or when Tonto uses Cole's signature watch-flip at the end to show Cole he's got all the power now. The way Red (Helena Bonham Carter) never says outright that she used to be a ballet dancer, but we can infer it from her portrait that she keeps in her office, so we know just how much she lost when Butch Cavendish (William Fichtner) cut off her leg. Which is also implied, never mentioned -- this movie is so great at not pounding us over the head with everything and respecting the audience's intelligence.
Sadly, from the reviews I've read, it seems that many viewers totally missed a lot of its subtleties. I guess maybe critics and viewers alike were expecting it to be a kid's movie, and so they didn't trouble themselves with paying attention.
Okay, I'm going to stop here. If you want to read someone else's review that really digs into what works about this movie -- and what doesn't -- go here.