The Lone Ranger
Cinelinx returns to the thrilling days of yesteryear with Disney's The Lone Ranger on Blu-ray!
After outlaw Butch Cavendish (William Fichtner) guns down his brother and leaves him for dead, a lone Texas Ranger (Armie Hammer) dons a mask to bring justice to a small Texas town, with the help of his friend Tonto (Johnny Depp). Also stars Helena Bonham Carter and Tom Wilkinson.
Directed by Gore Verbinski.
Growing up, I loved spending my Saturday mornings watching the old Lone Ranger TV show starring Clayton Moore and Jay Silverheels. I wasn’t particularly enthused about hearing Disney was bringing a new version to the big screen; I frankly wondered if Jerry Bruckheimer and Gore Verbinski really knew how to capture the spirit of the western without pandering to modern audiences.
Thankfully, director Gore Verbinski is keen enough to give The Lone Ranger an authentic western feel. Shot almost entirely on location, the film has a nice authenticity thanks to the incredible cinematography (including Utah’s Monument Valley) and impressive set design, which included a built-from-scratch locomotive. I won’t hold it against him that none of it was shot in Texas, even if that’s where it takes place.
I initially balked at the idea of Johnny Depp playing Tonto, and I wasn’t alone. I was concerned making the film Tonto-centric was some cheap politically correct ploy to redefine the Lone Ranger legend. While the movie certainly is told from Tonto’s point of view, it is more of a narrative device than an attempt to turn the mythos on its head. Depp is actually quite good as the eccentric Tonto, and provides much of the film’s dry humor.
Armie Hammer is excellent as John Reid, the attorney who dons the mask and mantle of the Lone Ranger after notorious outlaw Butch Cavendish (Fichtner) ambushes the posse he is riding in. His brother is killed, and Tonto, a Comanche who has history with Cavendish, finds him and the iconic partnership is born. Hammer’s Ranger is a bit stiff and thick-headed initially, and he plays well against Depp’s wacky Tonto. They have real chemistry, and when they are together on the screen, the film works well.
What hurts the film is the same thing we saw in the latter Verbinski Pirates of the Caribbean films: overblown action sequences and a film that needed to be much shorter. There’s a lot to like in The Lone Ranger, but at nearly two and a half hours, it is stuffed between a lot of unnecessary exposition and superfluous action. There were entire sequences that didn’t move the story along, and should have been cut.
It’s understandable to want to throw everything at the screen when you have a $200 million production (reportedly), but sometimes less is more, and you need to leave the audience wanting more. The climatic train chase is fantastic, but runs very long. You get just about every stunt you could think of having on a train, and by the end, you really didn’t feel the need to see more. The CGI work was a little heavy-handed (Silver would have shattered his legs with the jumps he supposedly made), and I couldn’t help but think the film should have taken a page from the 1998 film The Mask of Zorro, which relied more on practical stunts and created a more riveting watching experience by not doing too much. Sometimes too much of a good thing is a bad thing.
The film may run long and things may go over the top, but at its core, The Lone Ranger is hugely entertaining and a nice surprise. It really is too bad the film wasn’t a bigger success, as I would have liked to see Hammer and Depp have another adventure - they really are a duo worth watching. The Lone Ranger will satisfy fans (like myself) of the traditional Moore/Silverheels adventures, as well as a younger viewers looking for an entertaining, original adventure.
VIDEO AND AUDIO
The video transfer is fantastic, with superior color reproduction and razor-sharp detail. The reds and browns of the western landscapes stay true, as do skin tones. The CGI meshes well, for the most part, and even the film’s night scenes show good detail. There is a lot of dust and smoke kicked around, with no visible artifacting. Audio is a great 7.1 DTS-HDMA mix, which expertly separates the channels for a full, rich sound. French and Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1 tracks are included as well.
The Blu-ray includes three well-produced featurettes providing a look at the making of the film. “Armie’s Western Road Trip” gives viewers a tour (hosted by Armie Hammer) of the locations that served as backdrops for the movie. New Mexico, Arizona, Utah, and Colorado are all featured, and rather than just being a promotional piece, there is particular attention paid to the vistas. It’s incredibly beautiful, and you appreciate the fact it was filmed in high-definition.
“Becoming a Cowboy” is an eight minute featurette that documents the actors attending “cowboy camp.” Armie Hammer, William Fichtner, Ruth Wilson, Barry Pepper, and James Badge Dale are all interviewed, and are shown learning how to ride a horse, shoot a gun, lasso, and drive a wagon. It’s a short, but entertaining little piece.
“Riding the Rails of The Lone Ranger” provides one of the more incredible facts about the film’s production: they actually built a train and a five mile track from scratch just for the movie. They literally cast the iron wheels in a shop, just like they did in the 1800s. It’s an incredible technical achievement, and you appreciate it watching through the film a second time. The 11-minute featurette also chronicles the staging and shooting of the climatic train chase.
A deleted scene showing a locust storm is also shown. It was never filmed (except for a brief flashback/bookend with Johnny Depp), so we see the scene in animatics and storyboards. A fun, four-minute blooper reel is also included, as is a digital copy.
Release date: December 17, 2013
Running time: 149 minutes
Aspect ratio: 2.40:1
Audio: English 7.1 DTS-HDMA, English 2.0 Descriptive Video Service, French and Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital
Subtitles: English, French, Spanish
Special features: “Armie’s Western Road Trip” featurette, “Becoming a Cowboy” featurette, “Riding the Rails of The Lone Ranger” featurette, deleted scene, blooper reel.
Label: Walt Disney Home Entertainment