‘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. This looks dorky, pure and simple. Anything with simple Dippy Dorky Depp is purely dorkarooniesville. Look how he and his director buddy wrecked Dark Shadows! To the deepest part of Dante’s Inferno with them for that. BUT–I will probably give this a peek on Netflix, just because the action sequences, while looking dorky, might be worth a peek. I don’t know…. Tonto should not be in charge, the LR should be. And by the way, what is with Tweetie Bird on his head? And is that “whiteface” really greasepaint from a little kid’s Halloween kit, or is it the by-product of the tweetster eating too much millet-seed? However, be ye warned, I may have my finger hovering over the “stop” button on my computer which I will watch it on, and if I see the slightest bit of suckiness that is more than I can bear, that finger (the middle one) will descend down so fast that anyone else in the room will say, “Whoa! We just got our Flash movie! That was faster than the speed of light!”. So, this movie better prove me wrong, or an awful lot of popcorn husks are gonna go flying at and bouncing off my TV screen (or computer screen, to be accurate) with a resounding “pa-too-ie”!!!

    • How will the other person in the room know the precise moment in which you deemed the pic ‘too sucky’ in order to gauge the amount of time taken to descend your finger on the stop button and declare it faster than light?

    • You sound like a cartoon character. Its awesome.

      • Pixar seem to be testing their new characters out on Screen Rant.

  2. Just got back from the theater, and I enjoyed it. There’s a couple things you could pick apart, it was a little ‘busy’, maybe, but that’s half the fun of going to a movie in the first place, the chase scenes, cliffhangers, and skin-of-your-teeth escapes, all of which were included. Some scenes were grim and gruesome, but at least the camera shifted away before we got to see gnawing of ventricles. I thought the rabbits were a little unusual, but that fit with the references to earlier in the movie. All in all, I would recommend it to anyone who enjoys history, though this movie is not to be confused with a documentary, it does kind of illustrate why some people say ‘trust the government’ with a little bit of cynicism… all in good fun, enjoy in good humor.

  3. first of all I would like to disagree with goldilocks comment but therefor each person has there own opinions however I have not yet seen this film but since it came to everyone’s attention that Mr. Johnny Depp was to play tonto a main character I have been counting down the seconds and can not wait to final see it and to see Mr. Depp since he is my all time favorite actor also I think the best scene that I have saw from the trailer has got to be when he is underneath the train :D

  4. Hugely disappointing movie. Loved the Long Ranger as a kid so I was stoked for this. Pretty much falls flat on it’s face and is waaaaaaaaay too long.

    • The “Long” Ranger?

      Sure that wasn’t one of your father’s *ahem* movies?

  5. Going to see it Saturday. I can’t wait!

  6. Saw this last Thursday at an advance preview screening and have to agree with the main review. Depp was good, Silver was even better- kudos to the horse’s trainer. As an origin story I could accept the bumbling of Hammer’s characterization, since he demonstrated character growth by the end. The action scenes on the trains were good. But my complaint is that the level of violence was jarring to me, for the kind of movie this is meant to be. Cutting from a violent scene to Depp mugging for the camera or a Silver-moment for laughs did not work for me, and they could have toned down the violence. This is a hard PG-13 and I would caution parents before taking younger kids to this who might be thinking of it as similar in tone to the first Pirates of the Caribbean movie. I too feel that there were plot points left dangling that could have added more meaning and depth. Also, don’t bother waiting till the end of the credits… there is no payoff other than what you see at the start of them. I felt that final scene actually left me depressed as I walked out of the theater and considered how they portrayed Tonto’s later years.

  7. We saw the movie yesterday and is EXCELLENT.

    I do not understand your hate.

    This is the best movie of the summer. I do not know your secret agenda, but it is shameful that some “critics” give the wrong information to the public.

    • I saw the movie today and loved it…very entertaining….Depp was great, as usual….goodness sake what is up with all the haters…don’t go. Have an open mind and enjoy….everything in life does not have to have a deep meaning. Get some popcorn and a coke and laugh a little….

    • I completely agree!!! I saw this today and loved it. Wasn’t the best film ever made, but was enjoyable nonetheless and completely not worth two stars. After seeing all the bad reviews I was cautious but it was completely different to what I was expecting.

    • “Some critics”? This movie is being panned by almost everyone.

      • The cynic in me thinks that the comments above Dan’s are all the same person…

  8. We saw it last night and loved it. The direction is exactly what you’d expect from the originator of the “Pirates” franchise. The cast is a treat. We’re old enough to have experienced the original Lone Ranger as kids, so the inside jokes and explanations of the Ranger’s origins were terrific. The rabbits were hysterical (jack-a-lopes from New Mexico, I presume, since they were too small to be the Texas variety LOL), ditto, Silver, the horse.

  9. Just got home from the movie. Slow to start, but once I accepted the fact that it was very loosely related to the original story, it was very enjoyable. Lots of blow-’em-up action to please the masses; the gory violence was implied, which I appreciated. The train scenes were great; loved the horse and the bunnies. Quirky story line kept my interest. Depp was great — no similarity to Jack Sparrow, and mincing mannerisms were at a minimum. I give it 3 stars for sheer fun. Hubby agrees.

  10. Is more watchable than Man of Steel tars for damn sure. But I should’ve waited for Netflx for both.

    • I imagine many films would be better than Man of Steel tars…who would really sit around staring at a selection of gross, sticky tars?

      Now, as for “Man of Steel” the film…it was excellent and definitely better than this cute, little “Disneyfied” fluff piece. “The Lone Ranger” was fun while I was watching it…but not much else.

      • But a fun movie is all you expect from The Lone Ranger.

        • You’ll notice I stated that I enjoyed watching it. I simply pointed out that it does not compare to the excellence of MOS. I grew up watching the Clayton Moore/Jay Silver heels TV series; I even tolerated the feature film that failed miserably in theaters decades later. For a couple of years, I kept up with the (IDW?) comic series. THIS current movie played on my warm feelings of nostalgia…I had fun while watching it.

          However, nostalgia does not a good film make…this fun, NOT good.

  11. The critique above borders on stupidity. Verbinski and company have delivered enjoyable summer fare for movie goers. I mean it’s the LONE RANGER, what do you expect, War and Peace, Shindlers List, or The Godfather? I tire reading these pseudo film intellectuals drivel, especially with respect to a Lone Ranger movie.

    • That’s what I’m screaming! Man of Steel honestly bored me to tears and I watched it a second time after reviews came out from the comic book community proclaiming it was and I quote “EPIC!” Lone Ranger elicited out of me all of the feels intended by the filmmakers. The romance wasn’t forced either. For me, The Lone Ranger is everything the majority of summer movies haven’t been for a long time. Plus, the film had important messages to boot. What messages have other “blockbusters” presented us with this summer? What to do when superpowered aliens land on Earth? How to stop an international ring of theives using impeccable driving skills? If you ask me we could use more movies like The Lone Ranger.

      • Where the message is “get revenge by donning a mask and riding a horse into the desert”, correct?

    • So we won’t be seeing you commenting again, then? It’s pretty funny that a poor review of The Lone Ranger is enough to get you riled enough for petty name-calling. I’m sure everyone at SR will miss you.

  12. Bring on Pacific Rim.Bring on PACIFIC RIM!!BRING ON PACIFIC RIM!!! see you at the theaters on July 12th,boys and girls.

    • I won’t see you there but I’ll think of you from across the other side of the world. May even give you an astral projected high five when it turns out to be the summer movie we’ve all waited for.

  13. Just wondering why purists like some of you would bother to go see a movie like The Lone Ranger made by the same people involved in the Pirates franchise and expect something different than a summer blockbuster!!! Just saying!!!
    I went to see the movie expecting entertainement and I enjoyed it! No one walked out and people were laughing …. I guess no one expected a life changing film exerience when they purchased their ticket for The Lone Ranget starring Depp as Tonto!

    • I liked most of the Pirates movies and Johnny Depp in many roles, but now it is getting too formulaic. No one has mentioned Little Big Man which pulled off VERY Well what they are trying to do here. When I saw the beginning I was disappointed that they used this idea again so ineffectually. The rabbit scene was just silly. I was entertained the most by the horse and Helena Bonham Carter’s character. I really thought Armie Hammer was too goofy even though he did evolve to a better character. He was just too naive to have grown up in the same environment as his brother and ex-girlfriend.Johnny Depp is getting a little too one note in his characters. I recommend that people look in to Little Big Man to see it done well!

  14. Wow. So The Lone Ranger sucked a$$, huh? Yeah, not like I didn’t see that one coming.

  15. FYI: The Man Of Steel sucked a$$ too. Perhaps for a change Hollywood should put as much effort into actually making a decent film as they do blowing millions out of their butts promoting these high dollar crap-bombs. And granted George Lucas did his share of damage to his Star Wars franchise before passing the torch off to Disney, but if The Lone Ranger’s any indication, I dread seeing what Disney’s going to do to it before they’re finished.

    • You talk as of the same people made man of steel that made Lone Ranger, it is not “Hollywood” it is film makers making the kind of films they want to make. Unfortunately they have to make an effort to cater to the mass of morons out there that can’t appreciate a good story. Not to mention George Lucas ruined his franchise before it started it was his late wife that had her hand inthe original trilogy that made it great, not mr Lucas

  16. Saw it today and it was a hoot…This coming from an old man who as a kid listened to The Lone Ranger on the Radio and then the early TV series. Had goose bumps when the William Tell Overture started in earnest and almost split a gut on the Hi-O Silver scene! Definitely a popcorn classic and the crowd I viewed it with were lol-ing thru-out and clapping and yelling as the bad guys go theirs one by one…Just like we kids used to in the Saturday matinees…Quite a bit of excited buzz on the exit out of the showroom…Haven’t witnessed that kind of crowd reaction in a theater in quite awhile. So lighten up on the nuances and just go enjoy a western!

  17. So what is everyone’s problem with The Lone Ranger?

    So what, it wasn’t the best film ever made, but it’s still a lot better than 2 stars.

    For me, it’s a solid 3 1/2 stars.

  18. Chad..MOS didn’t suck at all, that might just be your opinion but I’ve seen it twice now and I loved it, Better than anything else I’ve seen this year..

    • MOS certainly didn’t suck but it wasn’t very good either. I’m glad you loved it but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a quality film. I liked X-3 but even I admit it sucked in a lot of ways.

      • Dan…I agree with Chase. MOS was wonderful, one of the best I’ve seen so far this year. As for “The Lone Ranger”, it gave me the same feeling “The Avengers” did previously: fun while sitting there watching it, but ultimately forgettable. ALL THREE, however, were vastly better than the dreck that was “Iron Man 3″.

        • Meh, if you swapped “Iron Man 3″ for “Man Of Steel” there Archaeon, I’d have totally agreed with you.

          • Nah…not possible for me to switch those two since I found MOS to be excellent and IM3 to be irritating, money-wasting crap. I (and, apparently, the entire rest of the audience at the showing I attended) were extremely aggravated about seeing such a sub-par piece of garbage.

            • Sigh…That should, of course, be “was” since the audience was simply included in parentheses and not in the main body of the sentence.

          • Loved Man of Steel as well. Love Iron Man as a concept and RDJ as the character, but boy did Marvel really screw the pooch on the Iron Man trilogy. What a let down and mess of a franchise. I mean, we are in this weird “Emperor’s New Clothes” situation where Marvel films have become so popular and universally accepted that no one wants to state the obvious – The Emperor has no clothes. Marvel films have turned the corner from promise to putridity. Iron Man 3 was a turd of epic proportions. Wake up Marvel fans! What were they thinking? How did IM3 not get panned? How did it make so much damn money? Got it – so did Revenge of the Fallen and Dark of the Moon. Box office does not equal quality. I think what’s happening is that the comic-loving community is so happy that average viewers are digging Marvel films as a whole, that they close their eyes to all the defects of Marvel films and just cross their fingers that the next ones will be better. They will – it just that Marvel won’t be the ones making them. I have more faith that DC will get the ball rolling with their universe, and that non-marvel studios Marvel films will do a better at representing their heroes the Marvel is doing themselves. Seriously, AntMan is on the docket. AntMan.

  19. There seems to be a lot of hate for the review score. Just to clarify, 2/5 stars does mean the reviewer thought it was OK, not terrible. That means that there were things genuinely good about it. If you enjoyed it a lot more than that, great for you, but sheer enjoyment is not the only factor to consider for reviewing. I’ve found this site to be pretty fair in laying out the pros and cons of movies, and then assigning the score based on how those stack up.

    TL;DR: Check yourselves! ;)

  20. I just have this to add from one of my favourite movies of all time:

    “The Lone Rangers? How can you pluralize The Lone Ranger?”

  21. Lone Ranger – I was skeptical going in but AM NOW A HUGE FAN! What great fun. It’s the movie I’ve been waiting for ALLLLLLLL summer! I think I’ll go again tomorrow.
    I have NO idea why all these critics are so negative. Its for FUN…. nothing else. and it hits that mark!

  22. More proof that Depp is one dimensional and over rated.

  23. Saw this on July 4. This was hugely disappointing. I love Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter and even they could not save this. Save your money and stay home. If you have younger children, definitely do not go even though the camera cuts away; some very graphic violence is enough to give young ones nightmares.

  24. Just saw it. All I can say is thank goodness for the William Tell Overture…

  25. Before I went to see TLR I checked Ben’s review of Pirates 4(2 stars) It was a little too long, but very enjoyable. I feel the same way about this one.

  26. I’m just pretty mad because of Depp’s casting. I know they are trying to get a lot of money; however, they should have been original with a Native American. Also, should have not packed so much CGI and predictable plots.

    Some movies can be fantastic if they do it right. Nolan’s Batman is a good example. It doesn’t have to be dark like those, but they could have been more modest with all this.

    I knew it wasn’t going to be that good. Why do these odd reboots have to be so cheesy and like watching a giant cartoon?

    • I agree with you. Disney wanted a moneymaker. Since I am old enough to have enjoyed some of the originals (Lone Ranger was before my time, but I saw re-runs,) and what they did to Wild West, I spy, and Dark Shadows really disappointed me. They were so cool when I was growing up. The campy humor ruined shows that were great memories. Really enjoyed the latest Batman movies too.They had subtle humor.

  27. I’d have to say this is one of the better movies I’ve seen so far. I guess because I wasn’t expecting much going in, it surprised me.

    It was a bit long but didn’t drag too much. I have to say the Pirates team is very good at over the top action scenes.

    As per the review, Hammer wasn’t a convincing Lone Ranger, he could be, but it seemed like he played it more like a comedy (I forgot the name of that movie where the hero wore all white) and didn’t seem very brave.

    The audience seemed to enjoy it.

  28. this movie was pretty good dry humoe bit story and action was greeeaaaat

  29. Tonto does NOT look authentic Cheyenne. What a stereotype costume. So many real Native American actors to choose from-Adam Beach, Raymond Grahamm, etc. and they pick a non-native movie star with brown hair. Pathetic. Add to it some lame storyline and you have the next John Carter. And who here is happy Disney puchased Star Wars?! May the Schwartz be with you.