The Lone Ranger
This weekend, see anything but The Lone Ranger. The only thing Western about Disney's Pirates of the Caribbean 5: Wild Westapalooza is that it happens to take place in nineteenth-century Texas. This could have been a great movie—but instead, director Gore Verbinski gives us a remake that is too short on story, too long on time, too reliant on spectacle, and way too overtly political (leaning towards the cynical and anti-American).
The Lone Ranger is the story of a boy (played by Mason Elton Cook) who wanders into a Wild West exhibit at a carnival that promises to take him, with a tip of the hat to the original radio series, to "the thrilling days of yesteryear!" He enters only to meet an elderly Tonto (Johnny Depp) who recounts his adventures as they, you know, really happened.
Tonto tells the tale of clean, Charlie-Brownish city lawyer John Reid (Armie Hammer), who is just arriving back home to Texas to become his town's prosecutor. Of course, he has baggage at home in the form of his teasing older brother Dan (James Badge Dale) and sister-in-law/former lover Rebecca (Ruth Wilson). When outlaw Butch Cavendish (William Fichtner) kills Dan in an ambush, though, John must step up to the plate and bring the bandit to justice. When he links up with Tonto, the crazy Comanche mystic, hilarious hijinks are of course unavoidable—but before long, the bumbling buddies stumble into a plot that implicates railroad tycoons, town mayor Cole (Tom Wilkinson), and the U.S. Cavalry.
That barebones summary makes the story sound almost coherent. But the movie goes on so many rambling side trails that it ends up failing to commit any time to making the motivations of any of the players—white hats or black hats—believable. The movie stacks subplots like an unwieldy pile of mugs: John Reid's coming of age arc, Tonto's backstory, the backstory of Reid and Rebecca, the unfolding love story of Reid and Rebecca, Cassidy's backstory, the interactions between Old Tonto and the young boy, the regional conflicts between the Indians and the military. The list goes on. And on. And on.
No wonder the movie clocks in at 149 minutes. Compare this to the 2000 Western/Kung-Fu action comedy Shanghai Noon, which told a simple story about archetypal unlikely friends who had some clear goals in under two hours—a filmmaking move that gave stars Owen Wilson and Jackie Chan room to breathe and play together.
The movie tries to patch up its lack of solid story with what passes for action. "Action," of course, means having giant pointless explosions, a guy riding a horse on top of a locomotive, and bullets that ricochet into things that knock into other things which then drop onto things that tip right onto the heads of the hapless bad guys.
All of this drives up the cost of the movie to $250 million while completely missing the point. A single punch, not played for laughs, from a man with good reasons is more memorable than all of the pointless fireballs in the world. And it costs much less.