Movie Premiere: The Lone Ranger

The story is familiar to everyone: A Texas Ranger is left for dead. He dons a mask and with his sidekick Tonto, they fight against injustice in the wild west. In the pantheon of heroes, perhaps none is as iconically American as this one. Yes, we have Superman and all the other super heroes, but the Lone Ranger lives and breathes the authentic American West. He is a true American hero; he is a man’s man. Except in this revival, where he is a doofus.

Ken: Quick! Where is Monument Valley located?

Leslie: Colby, Texas!

Ken: Ding! Ding! You are correct!

Leslie: I understand the filmmakers wanting to showcase the iconic scenery in films by directors such as John Ford, and they had to work in a Texas connection, but do they really think we’re so stupid that we don’t know where the heck Monument Valley is?

Ken: Okay, let’s back up, and explain a few things. This isn’t a new version of the beloved radio and TV saga. It is a Disney version that is basically Pirates of the Caribbean with Western wear replacing pirate costumes, and beautiful Western vistas replacing the seas. It even uses the same director and writers as Pirates. Moreover, things like logic and history, and geography, are discarded, along with any respect for the original story.  

Leslie: I’ve never seen a Disney film with so much grim, and downright disgusting violence. What I can’t figure out is how come I left the theater initially thinking it was enjoyable. It had all the elements of a great film - iconic locales, damsels in distress, some pieces of terrific music, but there was nothing holding it together.

Ken: The alternating between brutal violence and slapstick humor was disturbing. [SPOILER ALERT] A guy ripping out and eating a human heart? Really? I’ve never seen that in a Western movie.

Leslie: There was so much of that over-the-top gruesomeness and horrific slaughter, and then in the next scene the director tried to make us laugh. It was emotionally exhausting.

Ken: The flash forwards to San Francisco, 1933 didn’t work for me either. It was an okay way to start the movie, but cutting to that again and again really interrupted the flow.

Leslie: When I heard that Johnny Depp was going to portray Tonto, I knew instantly that this was going to be a questionable film.

Ken: You’ve exactly put your finger on why I hated this film. I was expecting and hoping for a heroic Western tale, but instead I got a guy with a bird on his head, and a Lone Ranger who fights like a sissy.

Leslie: I fight better than him. Maybe they were trying for that classic Jimmy Stewart hero, but we got Jim Carrey instead. Armie Hammer here is quirky, not charismatic.

Ken: I was bummed, so bummed.  And a noble, mythic Spirit Horse that also swigs beer and belches? The film works hard to create emotion in you, then mocks you for feeling emotional. Seriously, I almost walked out of the theater.

Leslie: Was there anything you did like about it?

Ken: From a technical standpoint, there were some redeeming features.

Leslie: Maybe that’s why I left the theater feeling more positive. I loved some of the sound design. Early on, there’s a scene cutting between horses galloping and a train locomotive. They timed the sound of the hoofbeats and the engine chugging so that they were perfectly in sync. The classic horse versus the Iron Horse.

Ken: The train wreck was pretty spectacular, with great surround sound. Engine parts were flying everywhere, and the sound effects spatially tracked them perfectly. Very exciting.

Leslie: The sound designers really showed restraint here - they used very realistic sounds in that scene. They could have gone over the top, but the sounds were natural - wood and twisting metal, precisely appropriate.

Ken: In some other scenes, they punched it up, to great effect. The sound of bullets impacting bodies demonstrated just how horrific that is. It was a great example of the importance of sound design. But, it was also another example of brutality in a film that also features slapstick comedy.

Leslie: There were other subtle but natural sound design features - an unseen horse approaching from the surrounds, the sound of the cavalry passing by and disappearing behind.  Not unique, but natural and effective.

Ken: Yep. I liked the sound of the swarm of arrows coming over the horizon. The sound has been done many times before, but it never gets old. I always duck when I hear it. What did you think of the score?

Leslie: I feel bad that Hans Zimmer was forced to somehow write cohesive music for this film. I usually love his scores, but the juxtaposition of poignant human tragedy with stupid comic relief left him with nothing to work with. There was a tragic scene scored with beautiful, somber voices, and then the next scene had horribly cliche western honky-tonk comic music.

Ken: I truly feel bad for Mr. Zimmer. What a thankless task to score this mess of a film. I bet this score is a genuine embarrassment for him. He probably wishes he could do an “Alan Smithee” on this.

Leslie: As a whole, it was dismal, but there were some redeeming qualities. I really enjoyed the percussive string hits that start in the opening scene and continue throughout. It has a great organic feel that was echoed with some of the native drums also featured throughout.

Ken: Yep. Hammered piano strings have been done before, but they worked well here. Did you notice the musical nod to A Fistful of Dollars?

Leslie: I only wish Clint Eastwood was starring in this film.

Ken: Amen. Speaking of immortals, one thing is for sure; the William Tell Overture is one of the most stirring pieces of music ever written.

Leslie: I spent the first (endless) hour of the movie hoping that theme would appear.

Ken: One thing I have to mention. This film is so cynical, even its use of music bothered me. The playing of "The Star Spangled Banner," the anthem of the United States of America, is ended by a scene of the United States Cavalry gunning down innocent people. Tasteless, and I did not appreciate it one bit.

Leslie: As unpatriotic as a film could get, especially one debuting on the Fourth of July weekend.

Ken: Let’s mention the big role that steam trains play in this film. Those scenes were visually spectacular; I’m sure there are tons of historical inaccuracies, but rail buffs will enjoy the ride. I’m sure there’s also a Disney theme park ride coming soon.

Leslie: Inaccuracies?  Are you kidding me??? In what reality did the Transcontinental Railroad pass through Texas?

Ken: Ha! Of course, in this reality, the locations were shot in Utah, New Mexico, and Colorado, including Creede - one of my fav spots.

Leslie: Most of the visual effects were good, but there was one scene when Silver leaps off a building where the CGI is just pathetically obvious.

Ken: For all kinds of reasons, I also disliked the CGI bunnies.

Leslie: A tasteless tribute to Monty Python’s killer bunnies?

Ken: A tremendous display of poor filmmaking.  The whole nature-out-of-balance thing was pointless. Did they get a tax credit from the EPA for doing that? Jeez, this is supposed to be The Lone Ranger, not Koyaanisqatsi (one of the best films ever).

Leslie: There were so many underlying agendas that I couldn’t even keep track of them all.

Ken: Bottom line, this is one of the worst films I’ve ever seen.

Leslie: Don’t hold back. Tell the readers what you really think.

Ken: It trashes one of my childhood heroes, and even worse, trashes him for all the kids who have never known the true Lone Ranger. It stupidly mixes violence with humor. Disney, a megacorporation, cynically tells us that corporations and industry are evil. Also cynically, Disney simply used the beloved Lone Ranger saga so it could rip off its own Pirates franchise. I could go on and on. This film really pissed me off.

Leslie: I can tell. I wasn’t as pissed off until I started to think about all the ways this film let me down. For me, I spent most of the film admiring the scenery, looking for familiar places that I’ve gone backpacking, but the rest of the film was a disaster, of epic proportions.

Ken: Who was that masked man? Well, the dope in this film wasn’t the Lone Ranger, that’s for sure.