In the cinema of the United States , it is no longer possible to differentiate the good from the bad. There is no standard against which to measure the individual films. There are but two possible ratings, decent or not even decent. By this measure, “The Lone Ranger” is a decent picture. If it had to stand against any twentieth century western, it would be a very bad picture indeed. It towers, however, over most action pictures of the last decade.
Although it was vilified even before its release, causing audiences to stay away, which gave authority to the advance reviews, there is nothing significantly wrong with the picture. It is a million times better than the execrable ‘Django Unchained, which was nominated for a best picture Oscar and was awarded an Oscar for its miserable screenplay. Where Tarantino copied the Italian westerns like a teenager tracing a comic book, Bruckheimer and company executed some witty and humorous homages to various westerns that played like visual ad-libs.
The stunts are well-executed, the editing sensible, both leads do a credible job, and the female lead is plausibly human, a rarity in any Hollywood movie of any era. As an origin prequel, the Lone Ranger is superior to “Batman Begins,” if only because the early material had no comic books to draw upon for inspiration. Some complain that it takes to long for John Reid to emerge as the Lone Ranger, but the extended gestation only makes the emergence more spectacular.
It is embarrassing to write a sentence like that, and even to write seriously about crappy movies that come from tv shows and comic books is a little preposterous, although many people who are paid to write about movies do their most serious thinking when reviewing movies based on their beloved comic books and tv shows. I know one such scribbler who passes himself off as an authority on the cinema who manages to squeeze at least three made for television soap operas into his yearly best ten lists for the Village Voice.
We should consider the Lone Ranger, not in light of The Wild Bunch or The Searchers, but in context of crud like Dredd and The Dark Knight. If you are heading to one of the palaces of digital hell to see a new release, you could do worse than the Lone Ranger. It is certainly better than the last edition of The Pirates of the Caribbean, and, for a big screen version of a television series, isn’t nearly as dull as Dark Shadows.
Why, then, are all the so-called critics obediently echoing the negativity of the advance reviews? Why is this decent picture the object of such scorn? First, television shows rarely make successful movies. Second, even good westerns, “Ride With the Devil” for instance, have been failing at the box office for most of this century. Westerns that come from television, such as “Wild Wild West,” have an exceptionally bad time at the box office. People went to see Kevin Costner as Wyatt Earp, but at that time, they would have gone to see him in just about anything. And Armie Hammer is a nobody. So the project itself was hopeless from the start, and why Disney sank $200 million into it is baffling.
Then there is the Johnny Depp problem. Depp is the best actor to come down the pike since Marlon Brando, and Hollywood hates his guts. This hatred trickles down to the sycophant critics, who have been yawning about how tired they are of him since Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. They hate Johnny because he is not part of their bullshit machine. Hell, he doesn’t even live in the United States any more. They hate him the same way they hated Ingrid Bergman when she married Roberto Rossellini.
The big failure of The Lone Ranger, in a political sense, is that it fails to do what the Hollywood action movie was designed to do, which is to send out the message of American invulnerability throughout the world that is still addicted to its lousy movies.