Friday, April 25, 2014

Film Friday: The Lone Ranger (2013)

I’m a fan of Johnny Depp. I’m a fan of the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise, which was helmed by Gore Verbinski, who also directs assembles The Lone Ranger. I like westerns. So far so good, right? Then why did I loath The Lone Ranger? Read on.
The Scheme
This one began with the idea of raping the crap out of another beloved property: The Lone Ranger. The idea was to assemble a film from modern liberal clichés and stolen ideas from other films, and wrap it in the halo of Johnny Depp and the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise so no one would notice what they were really buying. The public saw through this however, and avoided the film in droves. Disney lost between $160 million and $190 million on this film and it was well deserved.
As for the movie itself, it’s basically a large dump of all kinds of rotten clichés as an unlikable lawyer becomes an unlikable reluctant hero while combating all the racist whites from the Old West who gleefully killed more people than serial killers and now want to wipe out the Indians... all in the name of building a railroad so they could steal Indian silver and you and I can live in a polluted, corrupt country. Indian killing capitalists suck!
Where This Turd Went Wrong
Wow, where do I begin? How about this: nothing about this film works. It’s unpleasant on every level. But let’s go through some of the specifics.

Liberal Race Theory: Before we dig deeper, let me point out that this film is packed with racial identity politics and the “whites oppress minorities” garbage so popular in the 1990s in Hollywood. Not coincidentally, it’s also packed with typical liberal condescension racism. What do I mean? Observe.

Every white person in this film except the hero and the heroine are presented as enthusiastically genocidal. They want the Indians killed. The Army is stupid and bloodthirsty, and their commander chooses to wage a war of genocide rather than admit that he may have wrongly attacked the Indians. The railroad sees wiping out the Indians as the best way to go forward, as does the villain... and the pro forma "secret villain." Etc.
The Indians are presented as “noble savages,” which is a racist trope used to intellectually neuter another race. What Hollywood does is present that race as childlike, backwards, and helpless, i.e. harmless and needy. They exist for the sole purpose of awakening the white hero to his moral duties by tugging on his desire to protect these helpless, childlike beings. Spike Lee has dubbed these characters the “Magic Negro” when they are black, and he’s made it clear this is a racist portrayal.

The film then continues its racism by making the hero into the “white man’s burden” trope. This is done by making it clear that the Indians cannot protect themselves and must rely entirely on the white hero to save them. Adding a touch more insult to this, we are assured that the white hero and heroine are pure by having the minority characters sense their purity as animals sense ghosts or earthquakes. For example, you will see this in a particularly offensive scene when a Chinese woman, from out of the blue, decides to offer a gift to the heroine on the sole basis that her purity and her beauty is something that has struck the Chinese woman with awe.

Blech. Anyways...

Up Yours, Fans!: The first thing you will note is that the film craps all over the property. I love westerns, but I’m not a fan of the Lone Ranger. It always felt too campy to me, so this issue didn’t bother me. Still, I recognized throughout that the fans probably did not enjoy the complete perverting of the original property. Indeed, it is easier to see this as Jack Sparrow and His Retarded Sort-of-Outlaw Friend than it is to see it as The Lone Ranger.
Wrong Sensibilities: Despite not being a fan of The Lone Ranger, I am a fan of westerns, and I found myself turned off repeatedly by the film’s sensibilities. First, this is one of those film where the characters are just gross to look at. The villain is beyond ugly with vile teeth and has never bathed in his life. This is a condescending and false view of the past. It also makes the film unpleasant to look at. With that poor start, it then gets worse quickly. The villain is a modern sicko. He kills people with the glee of a television serial killer. He literally eats the hearts of his victims. He’s a rapist. In one scene, he licks his own blood from a knife. This is modern serial killer crap. NONE OF THIS BELONGS IN WESTERNS! It belongs in Saw.

And the villain is just the beginning. This film comes across like someone with a very sick mind wanting to assure themselves that everyone else is just like they are. Hence, all the whites except the hero think nothing of killing whoever gets in their way. Everyone is blood thirsty. They revel in hangings. They are cruel. And boy do they love killing Indians.

The hero is a real problem in this regard too. At one point, for example, he and Tonto find themselves buried up to their necks. Through a bit of impossible silliness, the hero’s horse gets him out of the jam. The hero then rides off and leaves Tonto buried. I can’t imagine a human being outside of a true psychopath who would do that to another person.

Anachronisms: Further, while there is nothing in the film you can point to and say, “That didn’t exist back then,” the film keeps giving off that vibe. It almost has a steam punk feel to it at times, like Wild Wild West, and even when it doesn’t, the action and dialog all feel too modern. Examples include Helen Bonham’s fake-leg gun, parallel and crossing train tracks through the mountains, and things like the death of the Rangers. They ride into a canyon where the villain’s gang wipes them out as if they were snipers with high powered scopes that let them stand off at 1,000 yards while taking out the Rangers with extreme precision without being seen and without missing a shot. It feels like a special forces attack, not something from a western.
The Unlikable Characters: All of the above could probably be overlooked if the characters were likable, but they aren’t. The film starts with a pointless narration device with a snotty kid and Johnny Depp way over-acting being old. He comes across right away as a liar, a fraud and a bore, and that sours you hearing his tale. Then we meet the hero and discover he’s an arrogant turd who is out of his league compared to everyone else around him. This is supposed to endear him to us somehow, but it doesn’t. Rather than being the fish out of water or the newbie with a lot to learn – generic characters films often use to give the audience someone to relate to – the hero comes across as an arrogant ass who looks down on the people around him even as he’s less competent than any of them. He’s also incredibly self-righteous, particularly about being anti-gun... something which doesn’t belong in a western. The result is that the hero moves from scene to scene without ever connecting with any of the other characters.

The love interest is bossy and conflicted. She loves the hero’s brother, but gets over that too easily. Even worse, we’re supposed to like her without ever really being given a reason. She is presumptuous cardboard with no chemistry with any other character.
Tonto is a waste. Johnny Depp plays on the stereotype of Indians being stoic, but he takes it to extremes; he acts like he’s on thorazine. There’s nothing particularly horrible about this choice except that it feels like Jack Sparrow all over again. Where this does become a problem is that we’re constantly told that he’s crazy and everyone seems to dislike him for no apparent reason. The hero in particular dislikes him. And while this works in cop buddy films, the problem here is that they never come to like each other and their angry interactions aren’t simultaneously funny.

The result of all of this is an offensive mess. From the opening frame until the ending, this film moves from scene to scene as unlikable characters engage in an orgy of brutality, self-righteousness, and anachronistic behavior. They never connect with each other and never connect with the audience. And by the time this film is over, you kind of wish they had all been killed. The plot is a slanderous cliché that feels more like it was assembled from expected scenes rather than a story someone wanted to tell. The director doesn’t care, though, because he’s busy inserting references to the first three Pirates of the Caribbean films throughout the film. The film is bloated. The writing is weak and uninspired. And the first 20 minutes just rush through a group of scenes that leave you wondering what else the film can do to annoy you... whining babies? cannibalistic, killer rabbits? a cross-dressing henchman in the old West? a hero who hates guns? All that's in there. Give me a break.

That’s why this one failed... and deservedly so.

46 comments:

Collin Chersi said...

You hit the nail on the head as to why this is on my top 10 worst of 2013 list.

Great job!

AndrewPrice said...

Thanks Collin! I couldn't believe how much this film annoyed me watching it. I expected it would just bore me, but that wasn't the case at all. Instead, it just kept rubbing me wrong at every single turn.

Kit said...

Take up the White Man's burden, Send forth the best ye breed
Go bind your sons to exile, to serve your captives' need;
To wait in heavy harness, On fluttered folk and wild--
Your new-caught, sullen peoples, Half-devil and half-child.

Tennessee Jed said...

Andrew - at first I was tempted, The Ranger, Depp, Disney, up to date technology, summmer popcorn film. Bit, I heard the early buzz cause I almost never see a film when it is released. By then, the buzz and reviews were so, so bad. I can live with the occasional liberal bitch slap, but this could have been titled "Return of Little Big Man." A film with this kind of agenda is uncalled for, and then to have it suck on every level. I am ashamed, and suspect Walt (with whom I share a birthday) would be ashamed at what those pricks have done. See Vito Corleone saying "look what they have done to my boy." Looks like Depp is on a long losing streak and has lost his mojo. Great Review.

AndrewPrice said...

Kit, Yep. Kipling. Though the Hollywood version is less obvious. The Hollywood version involves all the simpleton minorities looked up the glorious liberal hero to save them and guide their lives. Blech.

AndrewPrice said...

Jed, The elements suggest that this should have been a great movie. But they squander it. And while the cinematography is superb, nothing else in this film works. It just tries your patience in scene after scene and leaves you wondering why you're watching it.

Kit said...

Kipling is at least somewhat realistic:

"Take up the White Man's burden, The savage wars of peace--
Fill full the mouth of Famine And bid the sickness cease;
And when your goal is nearest The end for others sought,
Watch sloth and heathen Folly Bring all your hopes to nought."

Translation: Don't expect those "noble savages" and "little brown peoples" to look up at you in awe.

AndrewPrice said...

True, Kipling was a realist. Hollywood is not and that's why we get scenes like the Asian woman from out of the blue stopping the white heroine and giving her a gift. All minorities will look upon the liberal white hero as if he were a god!

Backthrow said...

Andrew,

Good review. From what I'd heard about LONE RANGER, leading up to and during its release, I'd already decided I wasn't going to bother with it, even on video/streaming, under the "life's too short" axiom. I've liked Johnny Depp in a few things (CRY-BABY, DONNIE BRASCO, the first two PIRATES flicks, etc), but I've grown tired of him; he's gotten lazy, and now when I see his name attached to a new project, I tend to want to see that film less than I might otherwise.

But putting aside all the toxic leftist b.s. that apparently oozes forth from LONE RANGER's every pore, a lot of the things you describe from the movie in the 'Anachronisms' section just sound like typical over-the-top modern-Hollywood excess on the part of the filmmakers. Now, I do occasionally like some fanciful takes on westerns, like THE WILD WILD WEST (the old TV series, not the 1999 movie), VALLEY OF GWANGI, and some of the loopier 'spaghetti westerns' of the 1960s/1970s, but the things you describe here sound like the filmmakers had no confidence in actually making a western... not just that the genre generally doesn't align with their dopey political views, but that they figure a modern audience won't sit still for an actual western, so they tried making something that was anything but a western, other than in locale... an Indiana Jones movie, a horror movie, a Special Forces action-fest, some gonzo PLANET TERROR type pulp pastiche... anything but a Western, much less one of the stripe of the old LONE RANGER --which I was never a fan of, anyway, but I could see how a fleshed-out, lavish, respectful take (say, THE LONE RANGER done like a Budd Boetticher/Randolph Scott oater, or THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN, but with the overall sunny disposition of SUPERMAN: THE MOVIE) would be a fun time. This one that we got sounds like the polar opposite of that.

Kit said...

So, what a minute, does that mean Kipling is actually more respectful of the non-whites and minorities than these Wonderful and Benevolent White Liberals?!?!?!

AndrewPrice said...

Kit, No. Kipling saw non-whites as savages animals who needed to be trained to become servants. Hollywood liberals see minorities as children who need to become wards of caring liberals. So Kipling's view is easily worse.

Kit said...

Good point.

But it is interesting, how in order to make minorities fit their view Hollywood liberals have to neuter them, render them impotent. They turn the Apache into a tribe of Eunuchs.

AndrewPrice said...

Backthrow, That's sort of right. The film is a western and it feels like a western. Everything is horses and Indians and pistols etc. The themes are things you found in westerns too -- Army v. Indians, railroad v. Indians, mining, etc. So this does feel like a western rather than being something else set in a western.

BUT much of what they do doesn't fit into a western. For example, the killing of the Rangers feels like an action sequence from any modern special forces film. Helen BC feels like she's in Old England and her fake leg comes across as something out of Van Helsing. The swinging back and forth between trains at the ending feels like a modern car chase almost. The villain belongs on Dexter. etc.

So you do get the feel that while the director is making a western, he abandons the western repeatedly to inject things he like better from other genres: "Hey, forget the shootout, let's do a special forces ambush!!" And the result is a film that just isn't a western, even as it isn't anything else.

AndrewPrice said...

BTW, your mention of spaghetti westerns raises this distinction. Films like Sabata are just wrong on so many levels, BUT they are at their core westerns and they display a love of the forms and substances of westerns. That's why you can watch it and, despite the camp, still feel like you watched a decent western.

Lone Ranger doesn't display the same love of westerns. In fact, it comes across more as someone who doesn't actually know anything about westerns and doesn't really care has been asked to "make a western for modern big tent audiences." Hence the film is more concerned with the typical formulas you find in modern action films than being a western.

AndrewPrice said...

Kit, Liberals have been doing that to their supporters for generations. What's interesting to me is that the minorities haven't been insulted by this condescension.

Backthrow said...

Andrew,

True... the Italians loved American westerns, even when they often tried to subvert them (as many --though not all-- of the spaghetti western screenwriters and directors were hard-core leftists/communists) through their own versions. Also, besides the love of the genre that shines through them, I can cut films like SABATA (or the original DJANGO from 1966) some slack for not being true to history or reality, because they were fairly low-budget, so had to do what they could to entertain, with what little they had to work with.

I have much less patience for their modern Hollywood counterparts, who have the budgets and resources to do just about anything, but then squander it all on junk like last year's LONE RANGER, with a rather thick streak of hipster contempt for the subject matter (and probably the audience).

AndrewPrice said...

Backthrow, Agreed. The spaghetti westerns are stylized westerns. You know they are presenting you with an unreal story, not a glimpse into history. And you see that in some of the more ridiculous moments -- like when a character turns a lamp on by shooting the switch to make it spin. It's goofy, it's over-the-top... but it's also an extension of the kinds of things you do see in westerns. It's not like the guy invented the jet fighter.

Modern films, on the other hand, traffic is condescension. "How can we take a boring old western and make it cool like modern films?" That's why they keep jamming current things into these films, so they can make a modern film in a western setting. Then they sneer at the characters as backwards and racist... except for the noble hero who represents them, i.e. the modern, enlightened liberal.

Voz said...

I have decided to agree with a vast majority of your opinion...I enjoyed the cinematography as well...but I think the thing that bugged me the most was the vast difference between the original Lone Ranger character and the new "revised" one. Clayton Moore purposely spoke using correct grammar and would never have sworn even if it had been allowed on the old tv show. He stayed in character when in public and kept the mask on to be a role model of truth and honor. The old Tonto may have had stilted speech, but the Lone Ranger never demeaned him and always trusted and treated him respectfully. The divergence from who the character was and who Moore tried to keep from being tainted was so obvious that it took me out of the movie. Clayton Moore and Jay Silverheels would have hated this remake IMHO.

KRS said...

I expected this to be a stinker from the moment I saw the picture of Johnny Depp with a dead crow on his head. I say that despite the fact that I like much of Depp's work and I like my crows dead. But, put them together and you just know Hollywood is on a rampage to rape a legend.

Never saw this movie and thanks to you, Andrew, I now feel enriched by the experience.

"What do you mean 'we,' paleface?"

ScottDS said...

I, too, am a Depp fan and I think Gore Verbinski is a brilliant visualist (he also did a very underrated movie called The Weather Man)...

...but when I saw the trailers for this one, it was like, "Really?!?!" And then I read how much it cost - no western should cost that much!

I'll see it eventually. If I don't download it, I'll wait for another free Redbox rental.

tryanmax said...

I saw this when it was first released--a buddy and I decided to see what all the fuss wasn't about--and have already forgotten much of it. Much of the hullabaloo was saying this film was an affront to westerns. I recall my reaction being that this was more an affront to film. The way this story was assembled wouldn't work in any genre.

tryanmax said...

Scott, this is one of the few films that I would say don't even waste your free Redbox rental on it. Wait for it to show up on something you already subscribe to.

AndrewPrice said...

tryanmax, That's a point I definitely want to get across. The problem for me wasn't the politics. It wasn't the attack on the Lone Ranger property. It wasn't even that it wasn't a good western. All those things were problems, but THE fundamental problem was that this was just an annoying, unpleasant film. In scene after scene, they seemed to go out of their way to do annoying, stupid things.

AndrewPrice said...

Voz, I'm not a fan of the original, so that wasn't a huge deal for me... BUT it was obvious to me the whole time that fans of the original were going to be upset. They really crapped all over the original characters.

AndrewPrice said...

KRS, This is a turd all around. It's a smart decision to skip this one.

AndrewPrice said...

Scott, If you have a different reaction, let us know. I was prepare to like this, but they just made it impossible.

djskit said...

I think I mentioned this before, but I09 had devastating take-down of this movie..The opening line:
"People complain that The Lone Ranger is boring, that it's almost totally devoid of fun except for the final 10 minutes, that it's ridiculously violent and yet inert. And all of these things are true — but you have to understand, it's all part of a calculated strategy, to sink far enough to burrow all the way to the infarcted heart of the terrible superhero origin story.

The goal is to show you who is to blame for the crappiness of so many superhero origin movies — you — and to punish you for allowing movies like The Lone Ranger to exist."

shawn said...

This was a movie I wanted to like. I enjoy westerns and I really liked Verbinski's and Depp's earlier collaboration so when the bad reviews started rolling in, I said to myself "Aw, it's just all the babies who said there was only one good "Pirates" movie". But nope, for once the critics were right- this one is a stinker. As you said Andrew- neither the Lone Ranger nor Tonto are likeable and so it makes it very hard to root for them or be interested in the story they have to tell. Scott save your money and your time, pass this one by.

Ty in TX said...

Good review, but there was two anachronisms.

The first was the band playing ''Stars and Stripes Forever'' at the first ceremony

Then after all the explosions and hoopla at the second ceremony, the band is playing ''The Star Bangled Banner."

Souza hadn't written Stars yet (1890s) and Key's poem hadn't been set to music yet or adopted as the US anthem until the early 1900s.

Ty in TX said...

. . . . . . there was......I should have typed "were," ugh.

AndrewPrice said...

djskit, LOL! Right on!
This: it's almost totally devoid of fun... it's ridiculously violent and yet inert. is exactly the problem. There isn't a moment in this film that you just enjoy. It just slogs along from annoying scene to annoying scene. And even though there is a lot of action, none of it is the least bit interesting or exciting... it's just violent.

AndrewPrice said...

shawn, I had the same reaction. I was very much prepared to like this film and to dismiss the critics as just whiners... but they weren't just whiners. This film just stunk. And at its core is the problem that I really disliked the hero and I found Tonto to be an annoying distraction. That makes it really hard to care about anything in the film.

AndrewPrice said...

Ty, You know what? When I watched the film, something about that struck me as "off," but I didn't go look it up and I didn't remember that issue after the next 20 minutes of annoyance blew away my patience. Thanks for pointing that out!

PikeBishop said...

I scratched this one off my list with the trailer. Does everything have to be this over the top, insanely unrealistic action BS? Guys riding horses on top of train cars....guys riding horses in train cars.....guys jumping off of 90 foot railroad trestles on to the coal bed of the tender of the train passing on the perpendicular tracks at the bottom of the valley...................what???????????????? This and I am sick of this hyper-kinetic Hong Kong-chop suey fight scenes where you can't make out what's going on.

Mycroft said...

This post needs the William Tell Overture
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rSE1GrQVzCQ
by Glen Campbell on guitar!

Jason said...

I did see the movie in the theater. Shortly afterward, I thought of another, much better movie I saw years ago, The Mask of Zorro. Another flick that brought back a popular, old-school pulp hero, only that one was a lot more fun. This movie was ugly, overlong, and just plain weird. I paraphrase from this movie’s Tonto: “There is something wrong with this movie.”

And oh yeah, how about that scene where the horse took a crap on the ground and then our unconscious “hero” gets dragged across it? Oh har har.

AndrewPrice said...

Jason, That's exactly the kind of moment in this film that annoyed me. They actually point the camera at the horse to let you watch it crap and then drag the hero through it. That's not even childish, it's just pathetic.

AndrewPrice said...

PikeBishop, I hear yeah! And what you are pointing out was the ending that was supposed to save this turkey -- it felt less real than all rest.

AndrewPrice said...

Mycroft, They actually made a point in interviews of saying how they waited until near the end to play that so that audiences would be thrilled when it finally happened. First of all, that's a lie. They play it early on. Secondly, I wasn't thrilled. It felt like the final slap from the film.

PikeBishop said...

Andrew: What ending? As I said the trailer convinced me not waste a minute of my life or a precious brain cell or two watching this turkey.

AndrewPrice said...

PikeBishop, The trailer was the ending... only with a voice over.

Koshcat said...

I want to thank you again for saving me from wasting 2 hours of my life.

PikeBishop said...

Just a related note off topic: Andrew: the summation of the "Best of Bond" does not have link on the Bondarama home page, unless I missed it.

AndrewPrice said...

Koshcat, You're welcome!

Thanks Pike, I'll fix that.

Alex said...

You know how sometimes you get a premonition, a gut feeling, that a movie is going to suck from the word "go"? Well, this was such a movie. You have merely confirmed my biases with your excellent takedown.

I believe that it is safe to say that any modern Hollywood movie that in any way, shape, or form involves American Indians will be used as an excuse to bash the evil pale-face. Which is a shame, because there are great stories that could be told, and legitimate grievances that American Indians are more than justified in having against the government of the United States.

This looked like a stupid, awful, dumb, and stupid movie. Did I mention stupid?

Anonymous said...

Amusingly, the failure of the character was foreshadowed decades ago by Rustler's Rhapsody:

Rex O'Herlihan: You're not a good guy at all!
Bob Barber: I'm a lawyer, you idiot!

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