One of the most dangerous things that may happen to a consummate film star is that the actor persona devours the movie character. Thus, never expect Humphrey Bogart to behave weakly or Clint Eastwood to solve trouble by means of accurate, convincing words. The same occurs with Johnny Depp. You may like him or not, but he never deceives anybody. Either directed by Tim Burton or by any other director, Johnny will always be the same funny guy on the verge of madness, taking himself not very seriously –actually, not seriously at all–, showing a huge range of soft, mild, even affectionate good manners and a pinch of idle extravagance.
For this reason it was not surprising that Tonto, the loyal and supporting native American who finds a more dead-than-alive John Reid and save his life as the ranger had previously preserved his –according to the 80’s film, from which this movie is clearly a sort of remake–, from the very beginning overlaps and overshadows the title character who, by the way, is much duller and softer.
But we were highly warned. A production coming from Disney couldn’t be prone to the free exaltation of violence or the unreasoned revenge of the reflexive distric attorney, reconverted for the occasion in The Lone Ranger, the only survivor of a massacre of lawmen by the ruthless Butch Cavendish. Instead of highlighting the heroic abilities of the outlawed ranger, the studio prefers not to take the film very seriously, and gives Depp carte blanche to repeat all the tics and eccentricities of Jack Sparrow, including a pervading inofensive insanity, a relaxed sense of absurd humour and neverending remarks for every rough situation. Armie Hammer does his best as the ranger, and he’s not bad on his role, but audience and script are on Johnny’s side.
Apart from that naive comical tone that spoils more than improves the film, the length is excessive and the rhythm uneven. Often, accelerated action takes us from one place to another without much sense and other times the movie hungs around interminable reports about the extermination of ethnic tribes, the coming of the railroad to the West or the exploitation of Chinese slaves in the construction of the necessary network.
Nevertheless, the movie has good points, as well. Action scenes are devilishly fun, especially those that occur around the trains, the plot is rarely consistent but works and the general feeling that remains after the final credits is one of high optimism and faith in mankind. Once more, Rossini’s William Tell Overture fills the critical stills with adventure and nostalgic heroism.
Finally, the film doesn’t forget to pay a straightforward homage to some of the great themes, directors and movies of the genre: John Ford, the railroad, Anthony Mann, the confrontation of indians vs colonists, the all-American noble cowboy, as opposed to the crepuscular spaghetti antihero... even to Lucky Luke through the weird occurrencies of Silver, the white horse, which resembles clearly to Jolly Jumper at his best. Another scene is directly inherited from Once Upon a Time in the West, when silence fills the air and something is going to happen while the character is drinking from the well and startled birds flutter around.
The film deserves to be watched, but without too many pretentions. Just to have a good time and remember the old good times of westerns. To expect something else from this product would be an unforgivable error and an exercise of avoidable disappointment. Next try leave Disney and Depp at home and harden the tone. Maybe it flops the same but at least it will have cost much less bucks.