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. "The Lone Ranger"

[There are some details included in this review that may be considered SPOILERS by some readers, but are necessary in order to establish the primary dramatic line as well as one of its key moments. If you're spoiler sensitive, read no further.]

Comanche Guidance

After my doubts about this movie, stemming from Tonto's (Johnny Depp) getup in the publicity ads, thinking it's going to be another of those Depp portrayals that would demean the iconic legend with another Captain Jack Sparrow ("Pirates of the Caribbean") skit; plus the enforcement of this feeling by the participation of Jerry Bruckheimer who produced both films; plus the two hour and twenty nine minute running time that didn't do much to counter my hesitation; I'm delighted to report that, for me, it turned out to be one of the more exhilarating movie experiences I've had.

Compared to other superhero hits, it has something at its core that sets it apart. To start with, the epic story, told by an aged Tonto in a museum exhibit, not only takes us back to the moment when The Lone Ranger and Comanche Indian Tonto cross paths for the first time, not only recounts why they stayed together despite the wide divide between their worlds and their interests, not only how the LR ends up on Silver, a horse that contributes a lot to this epic drama, but takes us on the ride that can be hilarious with wry, satiric dialogue and which culminates into a tale of transformation. This powerful and effective tale of two protectors of the old west reaches the heart.

Production-wise, after many false starts, changes of director and writers, the legend was put into the hands of director/co-producer Gore Verbinski ("Rango") who, with his ultimate team of screenwriters Justin Haythe, Ted Elliott and other contributors, built upon the tale to bring us the first Lone Ranger movie in 32 years and a budget, reported as $250,000,000, that could have funded 100 well-made movies back then.

For the finely dressed John Reid (Armie Hammer, "J. Edgar," "The Social Network"), impassioned by a desire to bring justice to the rangeland town in which he grew up, there is no place for vigilante justice. Not even the attack on the train he's on for his return home after graduating from Boston Law School by a band of scuzzy, brutal outlaws will budge his ironclad concept of justice only through the means of law.

John is so constrained by his incorruptible idealism that he fails to realize when people mock his manner and form of expression. A stiffness is apparent in his meeting with his brother's wife Rebecca, though the looks between them tell us there's something more than an in-law relationship going on.

When older brother Captain Daniel Reid deputizes John as a Texas Ranger so that he can join his posse hunting down Bartholomew "Butch" Cavendish (William Fichtner, "Phantom") for the train robbery, one of the men asks Dan if his brother can ride a horse. "Well enough," Dan says as they gallop into a landscape anyone who loves westerns knows well. Flat plains interrupted by monumental towers, mesas, hills and canyons. You can smell its grandeur.

The chase does not end well. Butch is way ahead of the Rangers, and springs an ambush that outguns the good guys. Dan is killed, along with his men. When Tonto comes upon the scene in the aftermath of the attack, he digs a line of graves according to the custom of his tribe. If he takes anything from any of the dead bodies, he leaves something in return, telling us that a Comanche spirit warrior trades -- never just takes.

When he gets to John's grave to do his final services, the corpse moves! Tonto is astonished. A pure white stallion appears on a nearby bluff as though to corroborate what his eyes tell him.

Tonto (to deputy John Reid): I dig seven graves. Horse says you are spirit walker: a man who has been to the other side and returned. A man who cannot be killed in battle.

This changes everything between the disparate pair. To the native warrior Reid is now a trusted partner, a friend, a kemosabe. A man, he thinks, who must wear a mask, which he fashions for John on their mission to avenge the death of John's brother.

The mythical image of this duo is taking shape, born of a 1933 radio show with justice on its mind and the driving, unforgettable finale of Gioachino Rossini's "William Tell Overture" as a musical theme that was known to just about every human being above the age of six... hours.

But, not so fast. John isn't quite comfortable with this image of himself yet. The bigger issue is who Butch is working for and, when we see that his ruthless murders are being directed by corrupt railroad baron Latham Cole (Tom Wilkinson, "The Conspirator"), whose vision of the railroad expansion is the fortune he's in the process of acquiring, the scope of the challenge widens way beyond Reid's little township. Cole is the villain behind the sadistic Butch.

There are a number of elements that create excitement and exhilaration. A return to the plains of the old west when a posse of hard riders gallop across the arid lands and through the mesas and canyons; beautifully photographed recreations of the laying of railroad track for the first time, and a train robbery by a band of cutthroats on horseback on an established route.

These images recollect hundreds of movies of time gone by and should arouse a great deal of appreciation for the pure visual aspect of the production. But for anyone familiar with the radio series, the moment that transports this movie to a whole new level of emotional heights is composer Hans Zimmer's inspired rendering at full volume the "Lone Ranger" theme music as the final act begins. Reid has become The Lone Ranger! It's the stuff good dreams are made of. It's a stopper that can fill a person with awe and significance if they harbor recollections of the radio days and it certain tells us that justice has just reared its silver head with new zeal. A legendary character has entered the scene.

This moment is the capstone of the evolution that's been taking place. Here, the movie reminds you in no uncertain terms of who this is about and the transformation taking place as Reid sheds his naivete about people and what he and his sidekick are going to do about the criminals infecting the west and, thereby, a young country.

Whatever flaws you felt in the repetition of hyper violence, stock characters and can-you-top-this stunts thus far, such issues are swept away by the music that represents a new whiff of justice blowing across the plains. It was a theme that was as much a part of The Lone Ranger as the mask and the horse. It filled the theatre with a flow of fresh oxygen; it lifted me to a whole new state of excitement and exhilaration.

The core of the film is in the relationship between Reid and the plains Indian as it builds into the partnership that was its destiny. The near-death experience; the spirit and respect it imparts to the white man seen from the Indian's perspective; the horse that knows its master; the reasoning behind the mask. If you can, see this film with an audience that lived through the time when "The Shadow" knew, when "The Green Hornet" buzzed, when Superman moved the earth off its trajectory to avoid a meteor..

Cinematographer Bojan Bazelli and his Panavision cameras record stunningly beautiful imagery of Monument Valley, Utah and other western states with complete mastery. His and Production Designer Jess Gonchor's "feel" for the Western, with its compositional beauty and grit is splendid. If too long and overdone, it's clear that no expense was spared in the production. From scenes of relatively minor detail to the muscular horsemanship by every rider, to the heavyweight acrobatic action stunts and mangling of steel that compare to the "Fast and Furious" series and beyond.

And yet, the film has been receiving low ratings from critics. The things I laud about this adaptation seems to be going unrecognized or unappreciated by those who don't seem to be putting it into the context of a generation that was enthralled by it. Perhaps in time the saga will be seen relative to what it meant then, and the care that was taken to render the story with creative insight, will earn the appreciation it deserves.

As it was to the kids of the forties, this is something special in the action-adventure western category.

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                                              ~~  Jules Brenner  

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Opinion Section
Comments from readers:
Well written
This review will influence me to recommend and read more by this reviewer
I've seen the movie and agree with the review
Site rating: 10

I agree with your comments. Excellent movie, the summer best of the summering

                                                           ~~ margi 
Well written
This review will influence me to recommend and read more by this reviewer
I've seen the movie and agree with the review
Site rating: 10

Seen twice. Marvelous

                                                           ~~ nony
Very well written, Perceptive
This review will influence me to read more by this reviewer
Site rating: 10

The movie resonated with me. The world is a place full of cruelty, greed, yet love and humor; they all coexist. This movie reflected this truth, yet created over the top of this a legend and persona that inspired excitement and a rush of familiarity, especially with the great overture pacing the climax. What a ride!

                                                           ~~ Brad E.
Very well written, Perceptive
This review will influence me to recommend and read more by this reviewer
Site rating: 10

Words cannot adequately describe my appreciation for The Lone Ranger movie. It is a 10-star classic.

                                                           ~~ Jay S.
Well written
This review will influence me to recommend this reviewer
I've seen the movie and agree with the review

As this reviewer states, most critics have bludgeoned this movie to death. The finale with the Lone Ranger theme gave me goosebumps!

                                                           ~~ Ed
Well written
This review will influence me to recommend and read more by this reviewer
I've seen the movie and agree with the review

I have read many reviews of the Lone Ranger but none of the reviewers have any real appreciation for the western movie as an art form. This review reflects my opinion better than I could have wriiten it. Thank you.

                                                           ~~ James B
[Thank you, James! I live for comments like yours. ~Jb]

I've seen the movie and agree with the review

I watched the movie despite having heard bad reviews about it. To my surprise, I actually liked many things about it. I'm glad I found a review that managed to express this. I'm wondering whether the enjoyment of The Lone Ranger has anything to do with the age of the audience: anyone who has not experienced Lone Ranger in their early years struggle with the idea of a do-gooder boy-scout hero. Thanks for the review, I'm glad someone enjoyed the movie as much as I did so I'm gonna say Hiyo Silver Away!

                                                           ~~ Nur-Ruhizan Noh
Very well written, Perceptive
This review will influence me to recommend and read more by this reviewer
Site rating: 10

Everything in this review is correct and then some. It's a shame that so few critics actually GET this movie, because it's AMAZING. Kudos SO much for this review--it really says so much about this movie that I wonder if other critics saw the same film. Everyone I've talked to who's seen it LOVED it, and everyone in the theater clearly did as well. FANTASTIC movie--I definitely am going to see it again and again. Depp is amazing as always, and the entire film is destined to become a classic.

                                                           ~~ Sunny
Well written, Perceptive
This review will influence me to recommend this reviewer
I've seen the movie and agree with the review

Site rating: 10

We saw the movie this weekend and couldn't determine why most critics rated it so low. Yet, most of the audiences love it. Maybe the critics didn't like having a lawyer crusade for justice in a very real sense. Yes, there were tonal changes, but they were graceful and added to the depth of the movie. It is a movie rich with story and character development that I will watch again and again.

                                                           ~~ Mark M.
[Ed. note: my theory is that a lot of critics who read the trades and the tabloids brought an already formed attitude toward this movie into the theatre and couldn't see it objectively. As far as this critic is concerned, it's their loss. ~ Jb]

Well written
This review will influence me to recommend and read more by this reviewer
I've seen the movie and agree with the review

Site rating: 10

I saw the movie before reading the reviews and was surprised to see the bad reviews, and glad that I hadn't read them prior to seeing the movie. The story did remind me of the old film style, kinda corny, but very well done. The panoramic shots were incredible! And the scenes which showed the building of the railroad were wonderfully done. Thank you for giving an honest review that doesn't copy what every other reviewer is saying.

                                                           ~~ Susan Z.
Very Well written
This review will influence me to recommend and read more by this reviewer
Site rating: 9

He's not afraid to tell the truth, not afraid of other critics.

                                                           ~~ Anon Q.


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Johnny Depp and Armie Hammer as
The ever watchful Tonto as spiritual guide to the Lone Ranger. No more Mr Nice Guy.

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