DVD Review - The Lone Ranger (Oscar Review)

The 86th Academy Award nominations were announced on January 16, 2014. I'm now doing my best to see all the recognized films before the air date of the actual Oscars ceremony on March 2nd. Most of which I have seen, but for one reason or another there are a few I missed. This one is one such. The Lone Ranger was nominated for two Oscars, Best Makeup and Hairstyling as well as Best Visual Effects.

Directed by Gore Verbinski and starring Johnny Depp for the Walt Disney Company, the same team that has given the Pirates of the Caribbean series of films. This film is essentially made with the same verve and panache, except instead of taking place on the high seas, it takes place in the wild wild west. Huge sailing ships are replaced with huge locomotives, boats for railroads.

Depp's swishy swashbuckler is twisted into a less loquacious Comanche named Tonto whose comedy is derived not so much on Depp's physical performance as it is on him being a proper pawn in the silly scenarios contrived by the myriad of screenwriters and the way Verbinski crafts those scenarios. If you're curious, the way Verbinski crafts things is in the manner of a live-action cartoon, the same level of intelligence as well. Verbinski is perhaps operating still in Rango mode.

Arguably, it's not a bad mode in which to be. Verbinski did win an Oscar for it. Armie Hammer who plays the titular character aka district attorney John Reid is still operating in Mirror Mirror mode. Hammer was put on the world's radar with The Social Network (2010) where he proved his comedic chops but the broadness and campy nature was increased for Tarsem Singh's Mirror Mirror. Hammer merely carries that sensibility here. It is perhaps not as ridiculous but only slighly.

The film is funny. There are some great bits like the scene where Tonto first meets John Reid. Both are trying to stop the movie's villain Butch Cavendish, played by William Fichtner. The scene is a nifty back-and-forth of John getting the upper hand, then Butch getting the upper hand and so on.

The film never truly balances the brutality with this kind of comedy. The silly pratfalls aren't all that balanced with scenes of sheer evisceration and the robbing of corpses. The film is also supremely too long. The framing device is totally unnecessary, even though it's probably Depp's design in that framing device that earned its Oscar nomination in Makeup.

The inclusion of Helena Bonham Carter felt totally unnecessary. I'm sure her character served the plot in some way, but it felt insignificant. What's also unnecessary are the number and lengths of the train sequences in this movie. I know, it's like trying to have Pirates of the Caribbean without the boats, but it's better to build to an incredible train sequence, not overwhelm us with one train sequence after another.

Perhaps there weren't that many, but that's what it felt like. Yet, the overwhelming was again probably what got the movie its Oscar nomination for Visual Effects. I admit that orchestrating those train disasters is not an easy feat. Credit should be given.

Three Stars out of Five.
Rated PG-13 for sequences of intense action and violence, and some suggestive material.
Running Time: 2 hrs. and 29 mins.


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