The Lone Ranger – film review

Theatrical poster for "The Lone Ranger" starring Johnny Depp and Armie Hammer.
Theatrical poster for “The Lone Ranger” starring Johnny Depp and Armie Hammer.
I thought The Lone Ranger was a fun movie. Flawed, certainly, and probably not something I’ll add to my collection. But, still, it was a good popcorn-movie.

I liked the costumes. The tailoring on Armie Hammer’s costumes was gorgeous. Ruth Wilson’s dresses were lovely. Helena Bonham-Carter’s were just a bit off-kilter, which perfectly suited the character. The outfits that needed to look distressed were suitably distressed. The outfits that needed to look distinguished looked distinguished.

I even liked Johnny Depp’s Tonto costume, dead bird and everything. Hey, I thought it was whimsical and creative. The costume designer, costumers, and wardrobe captured a good “period look” without throwing accuracy in the audience’s face.

Effects, choreography, and sets were similarly well-done: lots of good blow-it-up action, entertaining fight choreography, railroad scenes that completely delighted the steampunk in me.

The story…well, here’s where we start running into issues. It’s an entertaining yarn, but there are some bits of it that just don’t fit. The frame story, for example. There are instances where a frame story adds considerably to the mood and overall delight of the film. The Princess Bride comes to mind. This definitely was not The Princess Bride.

The frame story fell flat, added nothing except extra minutes to the film, and left viewers with kind of a bitter “aftertaste.” If you ignore the frame, the rest of the story is pretty entertaining: classic (in the “oft-repeated” sense, not the “people will still watch this fifty years from now” sense) justice-and-revenge, with a couple of twists that were actually moderately surprising. Too much time was wasted on silly gags, and one villain’s penchant for cannibalism did little for the story and was just yucky.

But the less-obvious villain had some darn good moments. The price-of-progress theme was interwoven without bashing people over the head with it. If you ignore the frame and disregard a few flaws, it’s rollicking summer-adventure fun.

I found fewer issues with characters than I found with the story. Tonto was just sad, in the end, but maybe he was supposed to be. I thought Armie Hammer did quite a good job as the straight-laced, proper, scholarly sort who has to “expand his horizons” in a hurry. Ruth Wilson was charming as both brothers’ love interest: I would have liked to see more of her story in the film, and less of her being jam-crammed into the traditional damsel-in-distress role.

The less-obvious villain HAD REAL MOTIVATION!! Real actual valid reasons, expressed in the film, for his evildoing ways!! That has been so rare in movies this summer, and I loved it. The railroad executives all played their bit parts well: suitably stuffy, without going over the top. The other characters, alas, can be summed up pretty well with the syllable “meh.” They certainly weren’t bad. The actors acted well their parts. They just weren’t outstanding, either.

I’m not going to touch on whether or not casting Johnny Depp as a Native American perpetuated stereotypes, because others have beaten that particular dead horse with much more fluency and skill than I could. The Lone Ranger is a fun movie to watch, once.

Release Date: July 3, 2013 (USA)
MPAA Rating: PG-13

MySF Rating: Three point zero stars
Family Friendliness: 60%


Alcohol/Drugs: 2 (stereotypical Western drinking and smoking)
Language: 2 (some expletives, deity, ethnic slurs)
Nudity: 0
Sexuality: 2 (scenes in a brothel, cleavage, kissing)
Violence: 4 (graphic violence, blood, up-close knife violence, shooting, references to rape, other comic violence)

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