Thursday, July 4, 2013

The Lone Ranger [2013]

MPAA (PG-13)  CNS/USCCB (L)  ChicagoTribune (1 Star)  ChicagoSunTimes (1 1/2 Stars) (3 1/2 Stars)  AVClub (B-)  Fr. Dennis (3 Stars)

IMDb listing
CNS/USCCB (J. Mulderig) review
Chicago Sun-Times (R. Roeper) review 
Chicago Tribune (M. Phillips) review (M. Zoller Seitz) review
AVClub (I. Vishnevetsky) review

In our often rather ideologically polarized times, one's opinion of the certainly "reimagined" and perhaps at times "reinvented" The Lone Ranger [2013] (directed by Gore Verbinski, screenplay/story by Justin Haythe, Ted Elliott and Terry Rossio based on the beloved American icon The Lone Ranger of radio / golden era of television days) will probably depend one's answers to a few questions: (1) Do you know what Tonto means in Spanish? ;-), (2) Do you believe that rich, powerful white men are always good?

If one knows what "tonto" means in Spanish then, John Read/Lone Ranger's (played by Armie Hammer's) companion Tonto (played IMHO surprisingly well by Johnny Depp in his characteristic deadpan style) is hilarious.  (In this film, we get to find out what even the people of his own tribe thought of him ;-).  If one doesn't know what "tonto" means, well ... one would have missed a good part of the film ;-).  Now why would a Comanche Indian carry a Spanish nickname?  Well, why would an actual/historical Apache chief carry the Spanish name Geronimo (Spanish for Jerome)?

Then while this film wouldn't do particularly well at any Rush Limbaugh sponsored film festival, railroad barons like the film's chief villain Cole (played by Tom Wilkinson) were not particularly liked in their own time.  They didn't earn the title "Robber Barons" from both their Irish immigrant railroad workers (generally nobody even bothered to ask, or even knew how to ask..., the Chinese immigrant railroad workers of what they thought of them ...) and white plains settlers for nothing.  The railroad workers found that they were paid miserably for backbreaking/dangerous work and even the settlers found that it really didn't matter how much grain they planted/harvested, because the money that they made was going to be sucked-up by the railroads anyway.  (And again, nobody even cared what the Native Americans thought of the railroads that they built over what used to be their land and pretty much brought an end to their way of life).  So, yes, this film is largely about what many on the Right today would decry as "Class warfare..." resulting in rather predictable differences in opinion today.

Now the Left has added its own tendacious/ideological goofiness to the film.  In this film, we first meet John Read, the future Lone Ranger, sitting on a train heading West in the midst of a group of psalm/hymn-singing Presbyterians (Christians).  One of the ladies asks him if he'd like to join them.  He lifts up his black-bound volume of John Locke's "Two Treatises of Government" and responds "this is my Bible."  Yeah, right ... Perhaps that'd be possible in Boston, Thomas Jefferson's Monticello or Philadelphia of the 1780s, but on the American Wild West frontier of the 1870s, I would find that response very, very doubtful.  To put it another way, John Read even before becoming "the Lone Ranger" would have been really, really "unique."

What then to say about the film?  Well, a lot of the background, I've already set above.  The story takes place in the late 1860s / early 1870s in the context of the construction of the first Transcontinental Railroad.  So one has the Railroad / Railroad Workers, the Indians, the Settlers, Bandits, the (U.S.) Cavalry out there to provide the first/most basic presence of "civilizing" (or "colonizing" ...) Order and the embrionic presence of a future more regular policing force in the form of the (Texas) Rangers.  (Texas?  Yup, the geography of the film is rather fluid, though the boundaries of the time were somewhat fluid as well.  The Republic of Texas entered the United States in the 1840s larger than the state of Texas is today).

In the film, John Read's brother Dan (played by James Badge Dale) is a Texas Ranger, who upon John's arrival out West "deputizes" him.  (Hence we learn how John Read becomes a "Ranger" to begin with ... What's left is to find out how/why he becomes "The Lone Ranger..." and that of course becomes the rest of the story...)

Is the story realistic?  Well, were a lot of the stories from "The Old West" realistic?  The ingredients to making a good, captivating story are present.  And as in any Legend, bits of the story are based on historical truth, tweaked, often tweaked _a lot_, to make a good story.  In this regard, the film compares quite well to The Mask of Zorro [1998] (which starred Antonio Banderas, Anthony Hopkins and Catherine Zeta-Jones) which uses many of the same Old-Westish elements to put together a wonderfully entertaining "alternative" history to the origins of California.

Will you like it?  Well, even a survey of reviewers indicates that older/more established reviewers didn't like it.  Younger, less established ones did.  Go figure ... ;-)

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