‘The Lone Ranger’ Review

Published 2 years ago by , Updated November 15th, 2014 at 12:26 am,

The Lone Ranger Tonto John Reid The Lone Ranger Review

A flawed but often entertaining summer blockbuster experience, The Lone Ranger falls short as a sum of its promising individual parts.

Disney’s The Lone Ranger follows the origins of the masked rider, John Reid (Armie Hammer), and the events that lead him to become a symbol of justice in the Old West. After completing a law degree, Reid returns to his hometown, Colby, Texas, to become the city’s government prosecutor and hold criminals accountable under United States law (along with a firm commitment to John Locke’s “Two Treatises of Government”). However, when his brother, Dan (James Badge Dale), is murdered in cold blood by ruthless outlaw Butch Cavendish (William Fichtner) Reid realizes that some criminals operate above of the law and he turns to a different form of justice as a masked vigilante.

As a tenuous peace between the Native American tribes and white settlers is threatened, the Lone Ranger must join forces with a heroic, though slightly offbeat, Comanche warrior, Tonto (Johnny Depp), who has spent years hunting Cavendish. Together, Reid and Tonto set out on a mission to investigate the circumstances that led to Dan’s death before more blood is spilled.

The Lone Ranger John Reid Tonto The Lone Ranger Review

John Reid and Tonto in ‘The Lone Ranger’

In an effort to re-imagine the Lone Ranger as a modern blockbuster franchise, Disney turned to the team behind their highly-successful Pirates of the Caribbean series, including producer Jerry Bruckheimer and director Gore Verbinski, along with star Johnny Depp. Unfortunately, despite a number of strong individual components, the final Lone Ranger movie experience misses the bar (and longterm promise) established in the first Pirates of the Caribbean installment. For many audience members, Verbinski’s latest will likely succeed in delivering mindless summer entertainment with a number of humorous character moments, a quirky (albeit familiar) performance from Depp, and an elaborate third act set-piece. Yet, for all of the film’s successes, most of the core story arcs and action beats are either derivative or underwhelming – misguided in attempts to piece together a blockbuster experience out of well-known parts.

Considering their have been countless variations to the Lone Ranger character over the years, it’s no surprise that the new film takes plenty of liberties with its origin story setup, especially as it pertains to the relationship between Reid and Tonto. Whereas the plot succeeds as a motor for the larger film progression, providing a believable enough foundation for the main characters (and the enemies they encounter), it under-delivers in attempts to say anything particularly new or interesting about the iconic figures. Worse yet, the movie introduces several compelling ideas (“Nature is out of balance” for example) only to entirely abandon them without worthwhile answers or narrative payoff. As a result, in lieu of delivering the “best” Lone Ranger story in franchise history (via an engaging exploration of fan-favorite characters and the larger Western world), Verbinski’s adventure is relegated to simply being the “biggest” (and most expensive).

The Lone Ranger Trains The Lone Ranger Review

Trains and Texas Rangers in ‘The Lone Ranger’

Armie Hammer (who played the Winklevoss twins in The Social Network) stars in the film as John Reid aka the Lone Ranger, and delivers a competent performance relative to the ambitions of the overarching film. Hammer succeeds in balancing campy one-liners with believable fisticuffs but, thanks to a heavy-handed origin story script, his character spends much of the film whining and bumbling from one dangerous situation to the next. A sequel could allow for a more capable (and exciting) version of the masked rider to shine but Hammer’s first attempt as the Lone Ranger, and alter-ego John Reid, is ultimately a bland variation on similar masked vigilante stories (tales that audiences will have already seen onscreen countless times before).

Equally well known performers provide competent, but not particularly distinctive, additions: including Tom Wilkinson as railroad magnate Latham Cole, Barry Pepper as military officer Captain Jay Fuller, and Ruth Wilson as Dan’s wife, Rebecca Reid. William Fichtner provides an especially creepy performance as the ruthless Butch Cavendish but, despite early indications that the film might do something interesting with the character (likely a holdover from the original supernatural draft of the film), any subtleties turn to disappointing caricature by the end.

The Lone Ranger William Fichtner The Lone Ranger Review

William Fichtner as Butch Cavindish in ‘The Lone Ranger’

As mentioned, Johnny Depp is comfortable in the quirky moccasins of the Comanche sidekick and, for that reason, it’s no surprise that Hammer’s Lone Ranger is sidelined to vanilla everyman duty. It’s a telling sign when scenes between Tonto and the Lone Ranger’s “spirit horse,” are more memorable than any moments between Depp and the titular masked hero. Still, following his penchant for strange family-friendly characters, Depp delivers another enjoyable turn as Tonto; though, the character is tinged by earlier oddball entries in the actor’s resume (Jack Sparrow/the Mad Hatter/Willy Wonka/Sweeney Todd/Barnabas Collins/etc). Like Depp’s other fan-favorite creations, Tonto is unapologetic as a character that will pursue the most cartoonish and ridiculous course of action in order to delight a moviegoing audience – often at the expense of believability.

While over-the-top camp has worked in other Depp movies, it’s noticeably at odds with the tone of the Lone Ranger, which includes brutal scenes of cannibalism and mass genocide, among other challenging story beats. The film is a surprisingly grim piece of storytelling, especially for viewers who aren’t as easily distracted by big explosions and take time to think about what is actually being depicted (or not-so-subtly implied) moment to moment. Playing fast and loose with history is forgivable at the theater but The Lone Ranger relies on shallow caricature while at the same time introducing a lot of complicated and disturbing aspects of Western expansion to further the plot, and neither approach results in impactful character drama or meaningful thematic insight.

The Lone Ranger Armie Hammer Johnny Depp The Lone Ranger Review

Armie Hammer (the Lone Ranger) and Johnny Depp (Tonto)

A flawed but often entertaining summer blockbuster experience, The Lone Ranger falls short as a sum of its promising individual parts. Unfortunately, the mixture of two likable leads and a cast of accomplished character actors, backed by highly-successful producers and a $200 million budget, based on a well-known pair of American heroes, doesn’t necessarily deliver a quality moviegoing experience. No doubt, certain audience members will thoroughly enjoy the bangs and gags in this Lone Ranger story but it’s still style over substance at nearly every turn, and fails to evolve or elevate the series canon in any meaningful (or particularly exciting) way.

If you’re still on the fence about The Lone Ranger, check out the trailer below:

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The Lone Ranger runs 149 minutes and is Rated PG-13 for sequences of intense action and violence, and some suggestive material. Now playing in theaters.

Let us know what you thought of the film in the comment section below. If you’ve seen the movie and want to discuss details about the film without worrying about spoiling it for those who haven’t seen it, please head over to our The Lone Ranger Spoilers Discussion.

For an in-depth discussion of the film by the Screen Rant editors check out our Lone Ranger episode of the SR Underground podcast.

Follow me on Twitter @benkendrick for future reviews, as well as movie, TV, and gaming news.

Our Rating:

2 out of 5

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  1. Too long and quite a great disappointment. I expected a typical western and not a Tonto with a stupid dead crow. Lame with a capital L.

    Maybe Jack Sparrow could had also worn something stupid on top of his head: like a dead fish?

  2. I thought it was okay, but with Disney films I set my expectations low so I’m never disappointed. The dead bird was a bit much but I’ll take this over the crappy pirates of the caribbean films any day.

    You guys should check out the Lone Ranger film from the early 80’s. It was a bit cheesy but I think you’ll enjoy it more than this one.

    • I actually just watched “The Legend of the Lone Ranger”.

      It’s interesting to watch these old movies before CGI… the stuntmen were actually jumping and running on real moving trains.

      The 1981 movie is more true to the radio origin but the 2012 one is still somewhat faithful.

      I dunno, I think people are being too critical of Depp’s casting and portrayal of Tonto, ignoring the fact that in this adaption, Tonto is actually smarter and better skilled than the Lone Ranger which is a positive thing to me.

        • For your information Clinton Muhammand, Johnny Depp does have partial Indian ancestory. Also you are being simply discrimatory any person no matter of what race or skin colour can play a role as long as it is done well. Go do some research first before shooting off your mouth.

          • Everybody “has Indian ancestry”. So do I – Blackfoot. I also have Irish in me. 1/8! But who am I? 100% black in the eyes of basically everyone. You wouldn’t see me running around claiming to be able to play an Irishman because I have some Irish ancestry.

  3. I have seen The Lone Ranger twice. I thoroughly enjoyed it. I went back a second time because I knew I missed something the fist time as the action was pretty fast. You can always count on Johnny Depp to give a good performance. I think Johnny Depp is a great actor as he does not care about playing the handsome role all the time. Evidence his other movies The Tourist and public Enemy. He always gives a great performance . Loved him in Dark Shadows. Anyway, I go to the movies for entertainment and I was thoroughly entertained by The Lone Ranger. What critics have to say about a movie does not matter to me.

    • I agree with you. I’ve seen it twice and plan on a third viewing this week. I cant express enough how much I loved this movie, and I pride myself on having good taste, or at least admitting of a guilty pleasure when I enjoy a bad movie…lol…but I thought this movei was fantastic. I read some reviews and it seems they are either all positive (the very few that are out there) or completely negative. Havent see this much divisiveness since Prometheus, which I believe deserved a 50/50 approval rating (I was in the positive half, loved it, but recognize its faults).

      I saw no faults here. Although I admit never watching the orginal versions of the Lone Ranger or even being interested, maybe that is why I loved this Disney version. Yes I agree it did at times have a Pirates feel to it no doubt, but so what, I loved those flicks too.

      Great thorough review of the film, I just disagree with alot of it. I dont think any of the main cast were caracatures…I enjoyed all of the actors performances, thought they did a great job, and the theater I sat in (twice) seemed to have also thoroughly enjoyed the flick witht heir laughter and applause throughout.

      especially preceeding the films climax, the score kicks in and even though I never got excited over the Lone Ranger before or most westerns for that matter, Boy, I sat up in my seat and felt like a kid again during the entire sequence. Loved it.

      The only negative thing i could possibly agree with is maybe it was a bit too long, but as far as plot and subplots, never once was I confused or disapointed. Sure perhaps its not an Oscar winner, but I give it a solid 4 out of 5. I havent come out of a theater more fulfilled and satisfied since The Avengers, and that includes mulitple viewings of Iron man 3, Man of Steel, and Star Trek Into Darkness, which all slightly disappointed me.

      Maybe my expectaions were too high for those films and low for this one, but damn if I didnt have a blast watchnig this movie.
      And after all, isnt that what movies are for? Entertainment?


  4. It was 100% on Flop-O-Ometer over a Year ago. Who didn’t know it stunk ?
    Can you say Klinton Spilsbury 3 times Fast ?

  5. I’m sure it stinks, but I will put a clothespin on my nose–maybe–and give it the benefit of the doubt just enough to try and sit through it on Netflix. What we need is a GOOD, SERIOUS Lone Ranger. And Dark Shadows. And Green Hornet. And hopefully the Doc Savage one in the works will be true to form as a GOOD, SERIOUS film! And for those who don’t like my grumbling in your ear, just wait until I get my megaphone!!

  6. And that’s the problem with the audience members in general. They just want to hided behind all that crap, instead of admitting that’s we critics are right for a change! And check out RollingStone’s review of this film, I’ve never seen so many backlashes from the Facebook users since Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen. It shows that audience members are so stupid when they think this “movie” is entertaining!

  7. I saw the Lone Ranger Sunday night. I thought it was a Awesome MOVIE! This movie has hit written all over it! And should be a hit! I enjoyed it very much and plan on seeing it again! It is that GOOD!I am a fan of the old show. And I thought this movie was very well done! Johnny Depp’s take on the Tonto Character was original. I could not understand why he had the dead crow on his head. It was told within the story line of the film. His make up and costume were based on a Indian painting called the crow man. Yet again original! I enjoyed his performance as Tonto! Armie Hammer did a fantastic job as the Lone Ranger! I for one would love to see a possible sequil to the Lone Ranger. I would Love to see both of these Actors return to these iconic Characters they did a Awesome job! The Lone Ranger is a Awesome Movie! If you liked the man of Steel you’ll love The lone Ranger it is that good of a movie! And I do not care what some critic says about the movie! You have to be you own judge about a film weather you like it or not!

    • Man of Steel & The Lone Ranger are two different movies. And it’s NOT an “awesome” movie. And no the actors did NOT do a “awesome” job. TROLL!!!!!!!!!

    • Just ignore me Teddy. I’m just having a bad day.

  8. Have seen the Lone Ranger twice! Loved it both times. If you are a die hard Western fan, do not go. This film reminds me of Blazing Saddles. Spoof like, enjoy Johnny Depp’s humor! Love to look at Armie Hammer! Will see it again!

  9. There was even a joke on Letterman the other night… The movie is so bad The Lone Ranger wants to go hide in South America.

  10. I only went to see this as I was accompanying a friend, my expectations were very low and to my surprise, given the terrible reviews I really liked it.

    Firstly it’s gorgeous to look at, the cinematography is stunning. Several shots of riders in the desert are framed like Edward Curtis photographs, I assume deliberately. I liked the rapport between the 2 leads and the support cast were engaging and played their roles well.

    It dealt with the breaking of treaties and the betrayal of the Native Americans and pulled no punches in doing so. I actually found that section quite moving.

    The final set piece and the use of The William Tell overture were a joy. I think the professional reviews really don’t do it justice.

  11. This movie got a lot of negative reviews but I didn’t let that deter me from watching it and I have to say that I liked the movie. This is a Jerry Bruckheimer Disney movie and there are certain things you should expect from this combination and I wasn’t disappointed, I got exactly what I expected. I think the probably with this film is there was no precedent. Not many people are interested in Western movies lately like they were back in the day which is probably part of the reason why it did poorly. However, I am a huge fan of Western movies, in particular modern Western films (Jonah Hex, Cowboys and Aliens, Wyatt Earp Revenge). This movie had action, a hint of romance, a good lead pairing, and comedy. The tone of the movie shifts often from serious Western, to something supernaturally weird (cannibalistic villain and rabbits), to comedic. It is a family driven movie and very entertaining. I never saw the original iconic Lone Ranger series so I don’t know how this compares but I quite liked the story and the delivery.

    In terms of cast I think Armie Hammer is absolutely gorgeous and a good actor. He played the morally driven John Reid/Lone Ranger well. Although I am disappointed that it took until the very end of the movie for him to get really cool and start firing a gun. Johnny Depp as Tonto was also good and entertaining and in no way did I find his portrayal offensive. The rest of the cast does a good job as well: William Fichtner as Butch Cassidy (main antagonist, cannibalistic outlaw), Tom Wilkinson as Latham Cole (greedy railroad tycoon), Ruth Wilson as Rebecca Reid (John’s brother’s wife and widow).

    I rate this film 7 out of 10.

  12. Somewhere in this film is a really good movie. The filmmakers obviously looked at LITTLE BIG MAN, BUTCH CASSIDY, and Robert Altman’s BUFFALO BILL as inspiration, when SILVERADO and RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK would have been more appropriate.

  13. This movie was not bad. I’m not saying that it didn’t have it’s problems, because it did. I feel like the movie they wanted to make was to different from the image that people have in there minds. The ranger was turned in to a wimp, tonto was made to look like an eccentric hero. I understand what he was doing with the bird, but I feel that he was to free to do what he wanted. But for me, it still go’s back to that image. If they wanted to reimagine the dynamics of the two I felt they could have done that without making the ranger a complete bumbling oaf. As for the director I felt that his work in this was to much tribute to other westerns and not enuf of his own style. Cause at times this film felt like a bunch of other films stuffed into a Lone Ranger lunchbox. In the end I feel like they should have made a completely original film, with all the elements of this film, but with a completely different story. Johnny still playing the half crazed native, army still playing a naive city boy. Disney already had a western property they could have used, big thunder mountain railroad. It would have been received for better than this and would have appealed to more people

  14. If I was the one to make this movie, I would have casted charily Hunnam as the ranger, Adam Beach or Rudy Youngblood as tonto. Gary oldman as butch, Cristoph Waltz as Cole, and Rachel Weisz as Red. I would have dropped the hole sisterinlaw angle and created a new subplot that involves an old child hood friend taking care of her sister and ranch. She would be played by Emma Watson. There would have been no little big man narrative. The ranger would be more heroic not a wimp at all. The film would not be directed toward just children but every one. It’s tone would be tombstone meets django, however I enjoyed the scenery so I’d keep the cinematographer.