The-Lone-Ranger-Depp-Hammer

It’s fair to ask whether Disney’s The Lone Ranger is based on a ride like so many summertime cinematic disasters. It’s also a fair assumption that the ride would be better. Jerry Bruckheimer’s dusty attempt to reboot the classic vigilante story suffers from a bloated and schizophrenic script, racism, lame attempts at humor, excessive violence, gratuitous vomiting–and that’s just in the first hour.

To say that’s when the wheels came off isn’t quite right; two and a half hours of runaway trains makes for a near constant onslaught of errant wheels. Not even Johnny Depp doing his best Ozzy Osborne impression as Tonto could save this movie from itself, and everyone loves Johnny in makeup with the shakes.

Following the death of his cooler older brother and some flaccid coveting of his sister-in-law, nerdy lawyer John Reid (Armie Hammer, bland) wakes up covered in dirt with only Tonto and a horse for company and after hours and hours of missing easy shots and letting the bad guys get away, robs a bank and becomes the Lone Ranger. Are you lost? So is everyone else.

The only thing this script–credited to no less than three writers–is missing is aliens and time travel. And in fact, there’s a dash of the latter in that the whole story’s actually being told by Old Tonto to a real life kid from Toy Story in San Francisco in 1933. There’s also white collar crime (Tom Wilkinson’s evil railroad baron stages a hostile takeover of the shareholders), Helena Bonham Carter in requisite bustier accessorized with a gun for a leg, and basically a genocide (actually an accurate portrayal of American’s handling of the Indians).

Perhaps this would have been better served as a silent film–the scenery’s gorgeous and the horse is a scene-stealer. Even Armie Hammer is handsome in his own New England Prep School kind of way. While this is the Lone Ranger’s movie in name, it’s Silver and Tonto who have the real chemistry: Johnny Depp and the horse play effortlessly off one another for far and away the most enjoyable scenes in the film.

In shooting on location in New Mexico and forgoing heavy CGI, Verbinski delivers a visually stunning film that takes full advantage of the sheer beauty of the American West. He doesn’t ditch the CGI entirely, and so in one of those weird dark turns the movie takes–and there are many–we’re treated to a herd of evil cannibalistic bunnies.

It’s tempting to draw parallels to this creative team’s previous adventure in summer movie amusement park tie-ins, and the corollaries to Pirates of the Carribbean are there, superficially: Bruckheimer and Verbinski at the helm, Johnny Depp in druggie drag, rollicking action set pieces.

But the comparison ends there. Where the first Pirates film had at its heart a real love story between Orlando Bloom’s Will Turner and Kiera Knightley’s Elizabeth Swann, The Lone Ranger never really nails down what all this vigilante justice business is really all about. It seems the Lone Ranger is chasing after a girl, but since she’s his brother’s wife the whole thing feels a little icky. He goes through a hell of a lot of trouble for one chaste kiss on horseback only to walk away from it all to live the life of an outlaw.

The Lone Ranger’s action sequences, mostly set atop and aboard real moving trains, are exciting and impressive, but that’s only for the first few minutes. In what seems to be a metaphor for the movie as a whole, they’re purposeless, unfocused, and way too long. Not to mention logically impossible: Tonto’s apparently crushed by a train car full of rocks and bounces back without a scratch on him.

The Lone Ranger is unfortunately overwrought, overwritten, and ultimately underwhelming.