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Gore Verbinski’s “The Lone Ranger” is the Definition of a Fun Popcorn Movie

July 2, 2013

By John Corrado

The Lone Ranger PosterEvery summer, the words “popcorn movie” get thrown around a lot, and The Lone Ranger easily fits the definition of the term.  This is an incredibly entertaining film that provides a surprising amount of thrills, along with a genuine sense of pure fun that is made to be enjoyed on a summer day.

I went into the press screening surrounded by cynicism and not knowing what to expect, and have read some genuinely scathing reviews over the past little while.  But I left the theatre having thoroughly enjoyed myself, and isn’t that what summer movies are supposed to be all about?  The film plays in select theatres tonight and opens everywhere tomorrow.

The story begins in 1933, as an elderly Tonto (Johnny Depp) is recounting the events of close to sixty years earlier, when he teamed up with his masked partner in justice, John Reid (Armie Hammer).  The good young man of the law first meets the Native warrior aboard a train, travelling down the newly sanctioned railroad being developed across the country by business tycoon Latham Cole (Tom Wilkinson).  After his brother Dan (James Badge Dale) and their men are brutally killed by Butch Cavendish (William Fichtner) and his gang, John Reid learns to work with Tonto and dons the famous black mask and white hat to become the Lone Ranger.  With a little help from the eccentric Red (Helena Bonham Carter), who runs a brothel and protects herself with a gun built into her artificial leg, the two partners uncover surprising corruption in a world run by greed.

Although the original show with Clayton Moore and Jay Silverheels precedes my time by many years, I grew up watching syndicated episodes on cable throughout my childhood.  There are obviously some updated moments in this big screen version, but The Lone Ranger is also a surprisingly faithful take on the old show that does a good job capturing the feel of the classic western that originally ran from 1949 to 1957.  There are a few flashes of humour that don’t quite fit with the tone of the rest of the film, but these moments can be easily overlooked throughout the entertaining 149 minute running time.  Because from the cinematography to the cast, this has the feel of an old western.

Armie Hammer gives an incredibly appealing performance as the upstanding young man of the law, and is quite a good fit for the iconic title role.  Although some have objected to the casting of Johnny Depp as a Native American character, he pulls off the role with aplomb, clearly relishing every moment of his time onscreen.  I respect the opinions of critics who find the casting to be racist, but I don’t think those behind the film had any bad intentions and Johnny Depp seems to have nothing but respect for the heritage that he is representing.  The backstory of Tonto is handled in a respectable way that seriously addresses the unfortunate racism faced by the Comanche Nation, without making light of past tragedies.

But all I can really do is judge the film on the merits of entertainment, and the reason I’m recommending The Lone Ranger is because I like the way that Gore Verbinski directs large scale action scenes.  Just as he did with the first three Pirates of the Caribbean films, here he pulls off several sequences that are genuinely exciting.  This is an entertaining film that’s also well made, with an inherent sense of joy for the material they are bringing to the screen.  The mostly practical special effects are excellent, with the sets and beautifully authentic old train that were built for the production giving a very tactical feel to even the wildest action sequences.  The cinematography is also highly commendable, with the dusty brown tones giving this the look of a classic western through and through.

This is a well crafted blockbuster that stages every set piece with an exhilarating sense of style and scope, making full use of the cinematic landscape.  By the time the William Tell Overture plays over a thrilling climactic sequence involving trains that could only be described as beautifully constructed chaos, I found myself grinning at all of the ingeniously crafted action on display.  The film also has a fair bit of violence that pushes right to the edge of the PG-13 rating, especially for a production under the Disney banner, and it’s definitely not for young kids with plenty of onscreen fatalities and even some blood.  But these things just make it all the more exciting for teens and adults.

The critical reaction to The Lone Ranger has been incredibly mixed, to say the least, and I have to respect the opinions of those who haven’t enjoyed the experience.  But I’m definitely a fan and Disney deserves the film to be a hit with audiences.  This is the sort of movie that is supposed to be seen with a big group of people and an even bigger bucket of popcorn, and for that Gore Verbinski’s The Lone Ranger provides one heck of an entertaining ride.  See this movie with an appreciative audience.

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