Best described by one reviewer as “a film without a constituency”, The Lone Ranger works overtime to alienate any constituency it might have had in theory. Within the first fifteen minutes we are shown The Lone Ranger and Tonto robbing a bank, and the man behind The Lone Ranger’s mask is established as irreligious. Ha, ha! The filmmakers want us to know right off that this is not going to be “your grandpa’s type of Western” — which is, of course, the only kind of Western anybody wants to see.
We still long for the moral values, for the heroic role models, that Westerns once supplied, and whenever a modern Western mocks those things, it flops at the box office — just as The Lone Ranger flopped. (The film lost approximately $150 million dollars overall for Walt Disney Pictures.)
You can make a funny Western, a Western that pokes fun at Western clichés, without being cynical about the tradition, but being cynical about the tradition is the mark of hipness for a modern Western. The only people who find this sort of cynicism amusing are the Hollywood hipsters who make such films.
There are some funny things in the film. There are some beautiful shots that reference classic Westerns like The Searchers. There are some thrilling action sequences — or action sequences that would be thrilling if they didn’t rely so obviously on CGI. Directors with big budgets just never know where to stop with the CGI stuff — it’s like a drug. Watching a man sit a horse well as he rides through beautiful country is always exciting, cinematically. Watching a man sit a horse indifferently as he rides in front of a green screen is just not the same.
The people who made this movie made the delightful Pirates Of the Caribbean, which is also a goof on an old movie genre. The Lone Ranger must have seemed like a cinch follow-up, goofing on a different old movie genre. But people care about Westerns in a way they don’t care about pirate movies. It was a fatal miscalculation not to understand this.
Those who want to brave a viewing of The Lone Ranger should know that it’s one of those movies that gets worse and worse the longer it goes on, and it goes on for two and half hours — time enough to get really, really bad, swirling deeper and deeper into incoherence and silliness, all at a breakneck pace.
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