For some bizarre reason (admitting that it is not uncommon for my thoughts to venture into the bizarre), after going to see THE LONE RANGER over the weekend and then sitting down to write this review, I kept thinking of that Latin phrase they hammered into our heads in high school (at least my high school). You know the one: Veni, vidi, vici … "I came, I saw, I conquered."
Only in the case of THE LONE RANGER, my thoughts ran (you'll have to excuse the rough translation): Veni, vidi, fructus … "I came, I saw, I enjoyed the hell out of it."
My feelings ever since first hearing about the plans for this movie have been a sort of mental roller coaster ride. First they were kinda high, hoping they'd finally get it right this time --- better than the disappointing Klinton Spillsbury version, and better than the TV thing they did in between (where, at one point, they contemplated a female Tonto); then I heard Bruckheimer's name attached to it and I thought that would be kind of cool, or at least it would translate to big budget and exciting (say what you will about Bruckheimer movies as far as high drama or what have you, they do tend to be exciting); then I heard Johnny Depp would be playing Tonto and my feelings toward the whole deal dropped about as low as I thought they could go; then I saw the first pictures of Depp as Tonto, with the face paint and that dead fucking crow on his head, and I found out my feelings could sink even lower and I pretty much wrote off any chance of me ever seeing this version of the Lone Ranger … But then the trailers started showing up. Damn You Tube, anyway. It looked like a fun, exciting movie and once again I started thinking about the kind of energy (whether the plot makes any sense or not) that a Bruckheimer film can generate … Ultimately, I decided I wanted to go see it when it came out.
And I'm glad I did.
Was it the Lone Ranger your grandfather (that would be me) grew up on? Nope, not much at all. But --- and this is an important but --- it didn't ruin that Lone Ranger, either. It simply put a different spin on it. More emphasis on Tonto and comedy, introducing John Reid (LR) as a more inept "easterner" returning to the West from law school (not too different from the James Stewart character in THE MAN WHO SHOT LIBERTY VALANCE) who only eventually started showing more heroic grit and savvy as the movie headed toward its climax, and throwing into the mix some obligatory PC stuff about the mistreatment of Indians and the environment being out of balance due to the corruption and evils of big business (in this case the railroads), etc.
In other words, a lot of it didn't really make a helluva lot of sense beyond the core story of Tonto aiding the lone survivor of the Texas Ranger massacre, the finding of his horse Silver, the donning of the mask, and seeking out justice/revenge for nasty ol' Butch Cavendish. In deference to Mr. Depp, I have to admit that it didn't take long for that stupid crow on top of his head (they had some mumbo-jumbo back story to explain that) not to matter so much and to accept/appreciate the comedic-yet-intense (think Buster Keaton) spin he put on the character of Tonto. I wish Armie Hammer's John Reid/LR interpretation would have been a little less dorky (think Brendon Fraser in the recent Mummy movies) in the beginning but, by the closing scenes where he rides off with Tonto to dispense further justice and order in the Old West, you sense that he is on the brink of becoming the more mature, more assured character we're familiar with.
There's really not much more to say.
If you want to be guided by Lone Ranger "purists" or more elite critics who have pig-piled onto this (same as they unfairly did for JOHN CARTER) because --- in my opinion --- they simply didn't "get it", then I think you're going to miss a hell of a good time at the movies.
For me, when the William Tell Overture music hit at the beginning of the big climactic sequence and the Lone Ranger came riding onto the screen whirling a lariat, there was a nine- or ten-year-old boy somewhere inside me who wanted to surge out of his seat wearing a paper mask over his eyes and brandishing a pair of cap guns and go running up and down the aisles on a broomstick horse. That's how it made me feel. That's how a rip-roaring Lone Ranger climax should make you feel --- and nuts to everything else.
My regular movie-going buddy these days, my 20-year-old grandson Bill, didn't know hardly squat about the Lone Ranger going in. So he had no expectations, no illusions. But he told me afterward that, when the music hit and LR came riding back on the screen, he felt exactly that same kind of excitement.
I talked to a couple of other old-timers (complete strangers) on the way out of the theater, and they both felt exactly the same way.
For a movie to leave people feeling that pumped up and excited and filled with such a sense of youthful exuberance … I'd say the film makers must have gotten something right.