There is a certain bit of ambiguity that creeps in while you are watching The Lone Ranger. Why is the protagonist lone ranger, what’s the secret behind the silver bullet and, above all, what’s the meaning of the catchphrase of Tonto – ‘kemo sabe’. The original radio series calls it a ‘scout’ and the movie calls it ‘wrong brother’.
The Lone Ranger directed by Gore Verbinski is a reboot of a popular radio series of 30s that went on to become a successful TV show in the 50s. After so many years, Disney and Jerry Bruckheimer brought this white hat masked hero to light. They might have thought the western hero and his Indian sidekick will offer excitement to this generation and will be remembered like heroes from Marvel comics. Thus was born a movie that operates in the post-civil war territory with awe, bewilderment and sporadic glee.
The film’s main action happens in 1869 Texas, but it’s framed by scenes set in 1933 San Francisco. In the opening scene, the half-built Golden Gate Bridge can be seen in the backdrop. A kid in cowboy attire walks through Wild West attractions and finds a noble savage in his native habitat. Then he recognizes the man wearing a dead crow on the top, and with heavy prosthetic wrinkles, to be Tonto (Johnny Depp). What follows is this character’s narration with multiple intercuts.
The plot tracks the escapades of the incompatible duo – John Reid (Armie Hammer) and Tonto (Johnny Depp) as they embark on their quest to find the fearsome outlaw Butch Cavendish. They travel through the Californian desert and soon discover a much intense and more malign plot – inhumanity and civilization, corrupt railroad corporations, the white man's greed for unification of the continent, plundering of natural resources, and the eventual relegation and slaughter of the Native Americans.
The comic flavor restrains the horrific moments of this historical massacre and is nicely weaved to justify the irreverent tonal shifts in the direction. Barbarities are followed by humorous passages and unwarranted gags, and what connects them is not a creative discernment. Verbinski is not Tarantino to pull such acts with poise. In the process, he showed the desperate need to tickle the audience but fell prey to tonal inconsistencies.
It seems the writers’ brigade – Ted Elliot and Terry Rossio – are still drooling on the Pirates of Caribbean franchise. They etched Depp’s Tonto strikingly similar to that of Jack Sparrow. And Hammer’s Reid subverts the audience imagination of machismo that permeates the Western film genre. They realized that in a world devoid of John Wayne or Clint Eastwood, a character tweak is quintessential. Then we have Depp's character, which looks eccentric and talks gibberish, and leaves us wondering whether he is genuine or pretending to be genuine.
Cinematographer Bojan Bazelli encapsulates the beauty of the desert without over-shading it. The selling points for the film are the two breath-taking action sequences at the beginning and the end. They are canned on moving trains, and the visual grandeur, excellent orchestration and CGI effects garner the audience applause. The thirty minute pre-climax long fight-and-chase extravaganza gets elevated with The Lone Ranger theme – Hans Zimmer’s rendition of Gioacchino Rossini's William Tell Overture.
Gore Verbinski did a lot of home work and that’s visible in collation of historical details surrounding the plot and also fine tuning the aesthetics. He might have watched the Spaghetti Westerns, films of Sergio Leone and Sam Peckinpah, and his own Rango over-and-over to fix things right for The Lone Ranger. All of these influences went into proper shaping of the film.
The Lone Ranger is the tale of a laudable attempt went haywire and a valiant film metamorphosed as a popcorn entertainer. It not only pokes and makes fun of its source but every film in the Western genre. In an attempt to balance magnanimity with gaiety, it descends into crevasse of nerve-racking unintelligibility.
After seeing a horse gulping down wine and tasting scorpions, bunny rabbits with sharp teeth that devour flesh; Tonto remarks that ‘nature is out of balance’. After watching the film the audience may surmise that ‘this move is definitely out of balance’.
My Rating: Expectation – 9/10; Reality – 5/10view less