Saturday, July 06, 2013

"The Lone Ranger" (2013) -- Initial Thoughts

Clayton Moore as The Lone Ranger in the 1950s TV show

I've blogged before about how much I love the Lone Ranger -- here about the TV show, and here about the movie.  The show and the 1956 movie were a huge part of my childhood.  My brother and I played that we were the Lone Ranger and Tonto hundreds of times, switching off who was whom as the mood struck us.  We had the first three episodes of the TV show memorized, line for line, and most of the movie too.  The Lone Ranger was one of my first heroes, and one I still hold dear to my heart.  Later, I got to listen to the original radio show too, which I also find to be great fun.

I knew from the previews that the remake was not going to be a serious movie.  It was going to have a kiddie-matinee-romp feel to it, and it was going to take iconic things from the original story and twist them to its own purposes.  And I would just have to be okay with that.  Fortunately, I'm not a purist.  If the story works, then I'm cool with having to change things from the original, as long as they serve the story.  And the story worked, so I'm okay with Tonto being a bit odd, with John Reid/the Lone Ranger being kind of bad at the whole ride-a-horse-and-shoot-a-gun thing at first, with them presenting this as more legend than fact.  That last really saves the whole shebang -- mythologizing it makes things work that would otherwise be unbelievable.

SPOILER ALERT!  Skip the next paragraph if you don't know the original story and don't like spoilage.

So.  The basic origin story is intact.  John Reid and his brother Dan are Texas Rangers, and a traitor named Collins leads them and five other Rangers into an ambush by the Cavendish gang.  All the Rangers are shot and left for dead.  A lonely Indian named Tonto comes upon their remains, buries them, and in the process discovers that John Reid is not dead.  Tonto nurses him back to life, makes him a mask from his dead brother's vest, gives him the name The Lone Ranger, gives him the idea for silver bullets, and introduces him to the fiery horse with the speed of light, Silver.  And then they go on from there.

Jay Silverheels as Tonto in the TV show

My brother and I always though that, in the TV show, Tonto (Jay Silverheels) was the brains behind the whole operation.  He gives the Lone Ranger (Clayton Moore) everything, from his name to his mask to his horse.  He improves on the Lone Ranger's plans if they're not quite up to snuff.  He goes undercover to get information, rescues the Lone Ranger from certain death time and again, and probably does all the cooking too.  So I'm not surprised that Johnny Depp wanted to play Tonto.  As he said in several interviews (including this one), why did Tonto have to be the sidekick?  In this movie, they're pretty equal characters, and Tonto is definitely the one with the know-how and the abilities that get the job done most of the time.

Ruth Wilson as Rebecca Reid

Of course, they added a lot of things.  Like a love triangle -- Dan Reid's (James Badge Dale) wife Rebecca (Ruth Wilson) was once in love with his brother John (Armie Hammer).  John's been away back East getting himself a law degree, and while he was away, she married Dan, and they had a son named Danny (Bryant Prince).

It's a lot funnier than the original, and more violent too.  While the Lone Ranger still shoots only to wound, never to kill, there are a lot of explosions and train wrecks and kidnappings and deaths, stuff that reminds you this is a modern movie, not a '50s show.  There's also a whole lot of rip-roarin' fun, though.

Basically, it's your standard railroads-vs-the-Indians plot.  Not hugely original, but tried and true.  John Reid comes west spouting about progress and the future, and then learns what happens when progress and the future come knocking.  Kind of reminded me of Jimmy Stewart's character in The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (1962).  Tonto (Johnny Depp) is an outcast Comanche whose entire village was wiped out many years earlier.  Together, they set out to stop the Cavendish gang, the underhanded railroaders, the misled Indians and cavalry, and save the town of Colby.  Which, by the way, was the name of the town in the first three episodes of the TV series, and I love that they used it.  I kept an eye out for Sheriff "Two-Gun" Taylor too, but he wasn't there.

But I also kept my eye out for the younger version of the railroad boss, Cole.  In most of the movie, Cole is played by Tom Wilkinson, but in one flashback sequence, he's played by a guy named Steve Corona.  And it just so happens that he and I went to college together -- he was in Cowboy's class, but I knew him and his wife because they were into theatre, and I was on the fringes of the theatre crowd.  A couple of my friends and I loved helping build sets, and we went to every single theatre production at least once, so I knew most of the theatre folks at least a little.  I got to see Steve Corona play Puck in a really fun version of A Midsummer Night's Dream, and he was the best Puck I have ever imagined.  But anyway, it was completely awesome to see him on the big screen!  I actually clapped when he came on, and then the people sitting next to me looked at me really funny, cuz he was playing the Bad Guy.  I wanted to explain that I knew him, but I don't like talking to strangers, so I didn't.

Okay, so anyway, this was a really fun romp of a movie.  Did I love it?  Maybe.  Did I like it?  Absolutely.  Will I buy the DVD?  Definitely.  If only for this one scene where John Reid finally gets it all together and really becomes The Lone Ranger -- they start the classic Lone Ranger theme up (actually a bit from "The William Tell Overture" by Rossini, but you knew that, right?), and it just pounds along, him riding Silver for all he's worth, and me bouncing up and down in my seat with pure and unadulterated joy.  I cheered.  Little fist pump and a "YEAH!"  And then I clapped.  And then I bounced some more.

Time to talk costumes!  I have to say, I absolutely adore the Lone Ranger's suit.

It's black, it's got this longish coat that I would love to wear myself, but it's got the red bandana and big white hat to hark back to the original.  Because, clearly, they weren't going to put him in the traditional blue jumpsuit.  This was a delicious choice.

Tonto didn't get the traditional fringed shirt look, either.  Instead, he got crazy face paint, a dead bird for a hat, and leggings.  It works.  It's Johnny Depp, what can I say?

The rest of the characters get that grimy-and-sweaty look that's popular in westerns these days.  I could not find any good pictures of Ruth Wilson's costumes, but she gets some great dresses, nothing fancy, just what a Texas Ranger's wife would manage with.  I'm going to put a picture of the two Reid brothers here to show off some more costumes and because I hadn't found a place for this anywhere else.

Is this a family-friendly movie?  Not really.  It's PG-13 for violence, action, and some suggestive material, which basically means it's a modern western with ladies of the evening in it.  Lots of low-cut dresses for said ladies, and lots of violence.  Also a cannibalism theme, and these weird killer bunnies that were never explained.  And one outlaw who wants to be a crossdresser -- really could have done without him.  Women are threatened, a little boy holds a gun, there are a handful of curse words... nope, not family-friendly.

But anyway, this is my last review for the Period Drama Challenge.  Sniff, sniff.  It's been so much fun!  I'll be doing the June recap and finale soon!  And then off I'll ride, into the sunset.

No, wait!  I'll still be here, still be reviewing movies.  Just not doing reviews for a particular challenge anymore, that's all.  But I'm not wandering off into the desert, don't worry.


  1. Oh whew. I was getting ready to say, "But Hamlette! You can't ride off into the sunset! I'd miss you!" I really would. So I'm glad you're not going anywhere anytime soon. :)

    Sounds like a rip-roaring time of a movie! And yeah, it's Johnny Depp. Of course he's going to be dressed strange and look weirdish. That's part and parcel to having him in a movie, right? ;)

    1. Hee. Nope, not planning on retiring any time soon. I'll be watching movies and reading books, and talking about them, for as long as I'm able.

      Actually, Johnny can do the normal look too. I'm thinking specifically of Public Enemy, but I've seen him do it elsewhere too. Just that he pulls the other off so well too.

  2. I plan to see it tonight with my friend, glad to hear it is not nearly as bad as most critics have said.


    1. Can't wait to see what you thought! I hope you have lots of fun seeing it :-)

  3. My brother used to have a Lone Ranger-themed lunchbox, which he had for all of his years at his elementary school. It's rusty and aged now, but I remember when it looked brand new. I like Johnny Depp and this seems like an enjoyable movie, so I may go and see it if I have the time. Really enjoyed reading your review!

    1. Aww, what a great lunch box! I have a mini Lone Ranger lunchbox, just to hold random stuff in. Glad you liked the review, and I hope you get to see the movie :-) I'm really tempted to go see it again myself.

  4. great review! Thank you =) one more on my bucket list !

  5. Hooray! (fist pump!!!) I loved this film (but then, I learned to drive a pirate ship from a real sailor who had walked the same planks as Johnny Depp). I expected "Pirates" with horses, and that isn't too far off... it takes the original tale (which I love) and drags it kicking and screaming into the 21st century. What has eluded most of the audience is that it is not a simple remake, a western, or a kids film, it is a wonderful, shaggy tall tale. I only wish they would do sequels.

    I went on about the film somewhat here:

    A man who lives near where Jay Silverheels grew up did this recent bio, the only one I've found for the inimitable Mr. Silverheels.

    I got the hardcopy (quite beautiful) and it is quite a nice self-published book. It should be available as an ebook soon.

    1. Yes, I really think that people just expected something different, and so they just decided that since this was not what they expected, it must be bad! Grr.

      Thanks for the links! I meant to read your post about the movie, but I ended up spending the whole day out with family, so it will have to wait for tomorrow, as will the link to the bio. It sounds intriguing, and I love a good biography! Thanks!

  6. I finally saw this! Armie Hammer and Johnny Depp worked so well together. It was really enjoyable. I got so excited when the famous music started playing that I screamed! Neat that you know one of the actors! It's fun to see how this movie has worked its way into your top ten. :-)

    1. Oh, and The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance is my favorite western so I loved that Armie Hammer's character was so like Jimmy Stewart's!

    2. MC, how wonderful!!! Oh, Hammer & Depp had such wonderful chemistry. Soooo funny together. Love them. And yes, when that finale cue fires up, it is all kinds of wonderful.

      Yeah, I love this movie more every time I watch it. Which is once or twice a year, at least.

      And yes! This John Reid definitely feels informed by Ransom Stoddard from TMWSLV! Great observation :-D


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