Sunday, 20 April 2014

The Lone Ranger (2013)

The reason why it has taken me so long to get around to this is because I had grave reservations.

For one, I quickly grew tired of the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise after the second film. The third, At The World's End, was a film, so disappointing, so ill advised and so overlong that, in my nightmares, I sometimes think I'm still in the cinema watching it! The fact that this appeared to be the West hardly had me itching to see it.

In fact I'm just tired of Johnny Depp's schtick full stop. He's been playing the neo-Keaton complete with optional drunk or trippy swaggering ever since Benny and Joon. I'd like to think he's a great actor - he's certainly a strong screen presence - but the fact he never plays anything approaching a normal person does little to support that belief. Like Stuart Maconie once said, how can you say he's an actor of great variety and depth when all he plays are freaks and oddballs in cartoonish endeavours - when he plays a timid, lonely librarian from Leeds, then you can say he has range!

It's not really Depp's fault and it's perhaps unfair to say he only ever plays the one role. The truth is, he can play 'normal people' and he has done so in the rather lovely Finding Neverland and, most recently, in the unfairly maligned The Rum Diary. But these films mean little to the box office compared to his OTT turns in blockbusters and so he's back again, playing the loony for his Disney paymasters. 

But my major sticking point for me (or should that be schticking point?) is the fact that I seemed to be totally unaware of one massive change of opinion, namely when was it decided that it was OK for a white actor to black up again?

Why, when there simply must be talent and available Native American actors out there, was it deemed OK for Depp to don both the tan and the war paint and play 'injun' for our amusement? When did we revert back to this un-PC era? Because this isn't just a one off in Hollywood right now, it wasn't so long ago we had Snow White and the Huntsman which saw the opportunity for seven dwarf actors to find employment go for a burton too. Call me a PC softie if you like but I'm finding such decisions a little disturbing and unfair.

So yes, these were the main reasons I didn't watch this until now - those and the fact that the majority of reviews were terrible. Now I've watched it, were those reviews right?

Well, yes they were.

Let's face it, The Lone Ranger - like the POTC films - is a bloated mess that relies largely on Depp's charisma  to be book-ended by a couple of CGI'd big action set pieces. As such it's a film I believe was  sorely in need of another draft in terms of the uneven script, as well as a good editor to cut away some of the rambling excess of celluloid. Because NO film of this comic book styling needs to be 2 and a half hours long and several characters feel utterly redundant, languishing in the shade of The Johnny Depp Show. Even, dare I say it, Helena Bonham Carter.

In its favour, there's a pleasing buddy/buddy dynamic between the two leads and it does, on the whole, look pretty stunning. There's also a peculiarity of spirit, coupled with some decidedly mature themes that is both refreshingly odd and cheekily provocative for a family orientated Disney blockbuster. But then again, in being so it leaves us with the question; just who is this film for? I can't really see kids going mad for it, it's overlong and too dark for some whilst the older generation, who welcome a good Western, will find this playing fast and loose with their expectations and the legend of the 'masked man' and his 'trusty scout'

Which brings me to yet another issue that irked with me - for much of the action, The Lone Ranger lives up to the Mexican understanding of his nickname 'Kemosabe' ie 'he who knows nothing' or bluntly, 'idiot'.  Armie Hammer's bungling hapless greenhorn of a hero in the making may be skilled enough and may fit the requirement of the origin story, but it still feels quite sacrilegious on the whole to me.

But then there's that fabulous set piece near the end; a thing of beauty, slapstick, action and suspense and above all old fashioned Hollywood. All brilliantly timed to The William Tell Overture, it serves as the moment the man becomes the myth and the legend. It's wonderfully rousing, but why did we have to wade through all the rest of the film to get to this crowning glory? One great setpiece doesn't make a film! If the rest of the film could match up to that - and let's face it, that means a serious tighter edit - this could have been something quite special. As it is its a flawed mess.

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