This past week I had the privilege of a date night with my wife. We sat for 2hrs 29 min watching Armie Hammer (whose name I struggle with comparing to a common baking soda) and Johnny Depp portray 2 classics: The Lone Ranger and Tonto. This Gore Verbinski and Jerry Bruckheimer film is rated PG-13 for violence and explosions. I won’t say there isn’t profanity in the movie, but it didn’t stand out if there was.
Let’s begin by saying: IF you are a die-hard fan of the original series, the serious undertone of the characters, the unwavering sureness of John Reid, and the stoic portrayal of Tonto, you will probably struggle with this movie. Also, if you are a historian that wants all things to be historically accurate, then you may not like this movie. Finally, if you one that only likes to see action scenes that are realistic and could possibly happen, you may not like this movie.
With that, let’s now say: IF you like action comedies and westerns, you will truly like this movie. If you like the way Depp brings about new views and pushes the envelope on his characters, you will like this. If you simply like to be entertained, you will like this.
I grew up for several years in Frankfort, IN where I watched channel 29 after school and always caught the reruns of The Lone Ranger series with Clayton Moore and Jay Silverheels.
I also had the 1973 Gabriel Lone Ranger figures with horses… that I SOOOOO wish I had once again. So I have been a Lone Ranger fan for many years. If you are a long-time fan like I am, then go into the movie like I did. Arm & Hammer, I mean Armie Hammer, recently played Prince Charming struck with a case of Puppy Love in Mirror-Mirror and Johnny Depp… well, Jack Sparrow, Willy Wonka, Edward Scissorhands, etc; so I went in to the movie expecting quirkiness. I also went into the movie expecting a new twist on things, a new back story, and a re-inventing of the characters.
It was the same perspective that I walked into with when I saw the re-make of Wild Wild West with Will Smith and Kevin Kline. I grew up on Robert Conrad and Ross Martin and was a loyal fan to the show.
If you go in looking for what you have always known and seen in an original, a re-make will almost always disappoint.
So, to the movie: In the beginning we have John Reid returning home from law school and as a
councilman that refuses to carry a gun. As he rides on the train he gazes longingly at a photo of a young lady, which we assume is his love that he is returning to. He has been gone 8 long years. On the train is the ruthless Butch Cavendish [played by William Fichtner (a popular supporting actor, my favorite being Alex Mahone from Prison Break)] who is a wanted man, chained in a prison car next to an Indian that keeps feeding a dead bird that sits on top of his head (first intro of humor to the movie).
The train is jumped by Butch’s band to help him escape and John Reid heads to confront them and make sure that Butch remains in custody. He is very unsure of himself and not comfortable with a gun and before you know it John and Tonto are chained together. After a train wreck and their escape we see Tonto and John separate.
In comes the meeting of the lady in the picture: Rebecca [ played by Ruth Wilson (who is probably known the most for her mini-series as Jane Eyre)]. She is the girl in John’s picture; however, she does not belong to him. Rebecca married John’s older brother Dan [ played James Badge Dale (WWZ’s Captain Speke and The Conspirator’s William Hamilton)] while he was away. Dan is a Texas Ranger along with 6 other rangers that ride with him. The Rangers are going after Butch. John insists that he goes along to make sure that justice is served correctly and that Butch isn’t just hung in the closest tree.
I appreciated this stance. Often, we as people seek our own sense of justice, which is actually vengeance. Scriptually, we are not to seek vengeance. Vengeance belongs to God and God alone. [Rom 12:19] Justice punishment is also scriptural. We have to pay for the things that we do wrong and adhere to the authorities of the law. [Titus 3:1] I appreciated that stance from John wanting to make sure that true justice was followed.
At the time of John joining the posse then, Dan appoints John as a Ranger, with their father’s Ranger badge. This is one step different from the actual LR story line. As this hunt for Butch takes place in the original story line Dan and John are actually already Rangers. With the uncertainty and clumsiness that John’s character plays, it makes more sense that he be a non-gun toting councilman that is appointed to being a Ranger.
An ambush takes place that leaves all of the Rangers dead. Tonto stumbles upon them and buries them all. With each one that he buries, he does an exchange for different items that the dead ranger possesses. I will simply say that the dead rangers get a bad trade. Suddenly the spirit horse, a white stallion, appears. Tonto speaks to the stallion and the stallion walks over to the grave of John Reid.
This is a comical scene as Tonto keeps walking the spirit horse over to Dan who is the brave warrior and the fierce brother. However, the stallion continues to go back to John, at which point John snaps awake.
Conceding to the spirit horse’s wishes, Tonto loads John up and drags him, literally with his head banging on the ground, to an Indian ceremony. Once John is fully awake we see him and Tonto sitting around a campfire as they discuss the issues, Butch, the death of Dan and the other rangers, and the fact that 8 rangers went into the valley, but only 7 graves were dug by Tonto. Here we are introduced to 2 things: Kemosabe and carnivorous rabbits. Where the 2nd came from, who knows. There’s never been any proof of carnivorous rabbits on any continent, let alone the US. However, Kemosabe does have a heritage. Many people believe that it means “fool” or “brainless” in different languages. Tonto eventually tells John that it is Comanche for “wrong brother”. However, going back in history, it is actually a term created for the LR by original director Jim Jewell. Jim Jewell attended a young scout camp that his later to be father-in-law established near Mackinac, Michigan called Kamp Kee-Mo Sah-Bee. The translation for the camp meant “trusty scout”. So ignoring different dialects and other sounding Native American words, history tells us what Kemosabe is truly meant to mean “Trusty Scout” for the Lone Ranger.
The story goes on and the hunt for Butch takes place. The mask of the LR has an interesting way it is created and I don’t want to take that scene from those of you who wish to watch it. It is sentimental, though. History then ties these two heroes together. We know that John’s brother Dan was killed by Butch, but we also find out that Tonto’s people were killed by Butch and his partner many years ago at the discovery of silver deposits near Tonto’s camp. Step by step we see how things tie together and incorporate a corrupt railroad that is behind Dan’s death, the death of Tonto’s Comanche camp, falsified Comanche attacks on the local people, and the secret mining of silver from the local areas to be transported on the newly created train tracks.
The climax of the movie is a dramatic train ride and chase between two runaway trains. Some of the filming was very well done. Other aspects of it were too far-fetched. LR rides on top of a moving train in one part. I can buy that. I have seen motorcycles that have run across the top of trains and people that have run across the top of trains. Why shouldn’t a horse? However, he ends up riding at a full gallop on the inside of the train while shooting at Butch and I just don’t buy into that. I ride on an old passenger train every fall with my cub scouts; I’m telling you there isn’t enough space in the aisle or in head clearance for a horse back rider to make a run down it.
The second aspect of the train was when Tonto needed to cross over to the next train. Suddenly he has a 20 foot ladder that he is climbing straight up on. I don’t buy that it would stay straight up in the first place and I don’t know where in the world a 20 foot ladder came from suddenly on a moving train.
Another aspect throughout the movie that I struggled with is where the Spirit Horse is seen standing: on a roof of a building in town, in a tree, and on the roof of a burning barn. You’re never shown how he gets to these places and lead to possibly believe he can fly like a Pegasus or something. Not sure why these clips were necessary. I don’t mind some stretching of possibility… but a horse standing in a tree is just over and beyond believable.
Aspects that I really liked were the beginning where a young boy goes inside of a carnival tent and looks at old west things. He’s dressed as the Long Ranger as he walks around and then he walks up to what seems to be an old Native American. Suddenly the old man turns and with sadness in his eyes asks, “Kemosabe?” Then the boy begins to talk to the old man and the aged Tonto begins to tell him his story. I like the flash back aspect for the introduction dealing with a society that knew the stories of the Lone Ranger. The break back and forthy occasionally to this scene, which reminds me a great deal of the classic: Princess Bride.
I also appreciated the make-up done on Johnny Depp for those scenes. Seldom do people truly look old in movies: often old face with 30 year-old hands or something like that. However, the make-up done here was top-notch, all the way down to the hands. I was convinced Johnny Depp had aged to 100 as these scenes took place.
One of my favorite aspects was watching how John Reid came into his own. He started out as a backwards, awkward, and uncertain councilman that wanted justice to be done that grew into a confident masked man that sought justice. I saw this like the connection with becoming a Christian. As a councilman John Reid is excited for the law, though uncertain in his personal aspects. Young Christians are often that way too. We are excited and the word takes root, but without continued growth, it withers away. [Luke 8: 6&13] That is one reason that we are compared to babes with milk in our beginning walk with Jesus. [1Pet 2:2] Then, just as John Reid began to grow, become more assertive, and much more confident, as a Christian we go to meat and rightly dividing the word of God.
Things I didn’t care so much for: other than the magic horse, are the few mis-placed historical things. The mention of a Sears and Roebuck watch for instance when the story took place in the 1840’s and the store wasn’t founded until the 1880’s. Also, the playing of the National Anthem at the joining site of the two railroads. Scott King wrote it in 1813, however it wasn’t put to music until a much later date and became the National Anthem in the 1930’s. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a huge history buff, but I do like history to presented correctly in dated films.
So what do I score the movie?
I personally am giving it a 3 out of 4 stars.
It wasn’t the greatest film. I don’t plan to pay to see it again in the theatres. However, it was entertaining, downright funny at times, and constantly moving in a good pace. I’ll buy this one and add it to my collection.
Is it as bad as many critics are saying? No Way!
It’s not the best movie, true. However, it’s worth seeing.
So the questions is, Will the Lone Ranger Ride Again? I, for one, hope so.
Tonto at seeing the spirit horse on a tree limb, “Something very wrong with that horse.”
Conversation surrounding a warning shot at the burning barn:
Tonto, “Nice shot.”
John Reid, “That was suppose to be a warning shot.”
Tonto, “In that case, not so good.”
In the end with the nostalgic rearing of “silver”, who is newly named:
LR, “Hi ho Silver, away!”
Tonto, “Never do that again.”
Did you know:
The new Tonto make-up theme is based on an actual painting called “I Am Crow”.
Tonto, Johnny Depp, actually fell from his horse and was drug by it. The horse instictly side-stepped to keep from stepping on Depp. Depp stated that the horse saved his life by doing this.
According to comic book history John Reid is a distant relative (great-great grandfather I believe) to Britt Reid (aka The Green Hornet).