11 August 2015

Was The Lone Ranger Really That Bad?

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The Lone Ranger opened to such a hostile reception that most reviews of it contained less stars than the average episode of Celebrity Rehab. From hearing about its dubious casting, huge budget, and overly long duration, the American critics had already undone their collective belt before seeing the final product, squatting down and taking a shit all over it. European reviewers seemed slightly kinder to the movie but the general consensus was that the film was a total fucking mess. Like being told about that picture of 'Tub Girl' however, curiosity got the better of me and I decided to see the thing for myself. Could it really be as bad as its reputation suggested? People seemed so happy to stick the knife in that you'd assume it was the cinematic equivalent of a Piers Morgan Voodoo doll. How can a fun looking film like this be on the receiving end of such hate? Was it funded by the gold that the Nazi's had stolen from Jewish teeth and I'd just not heard? If the film was played backwards would it contain a satanic message that had the power to resurrect whichever one of the Corey's has died? I needed to see and find out for myself. 


So I would normally summarise the plot here but it's so long and all over the fucking place that I really can't be bothered. Basically the film tells the origin story of every aspect of The Lone Ranger that I'm surprised it didn't also spend half an hour telling us about where our hero buys his shitty knickers from. We find out about The Lone Ranger's backstory, Tonto's backstory, Tonto's hat's backstory, and The Lone Ranger's mask's backstory... It's as though they had a quota of stuff that they had to explain and also a list of random things that I couldn't give a solitary shit about. The story itself is also the most convoluted and overly complicated load of rubbish that I can only assume that it was based on the fevered imagination of a lonely child whose been told to play with his train-set for about five hours. Essentially it's just a buddy movie between the Lone Ranger and Tonto as they wander through an unnecessary conspiracy plot to get to the evil William Fichtner but dragged out to last the lifespan of a small mammal. Oh and in case you feel it makes any difference to your life, Fichtner's character has a scratty head of horrible hair, a cleft lip, and a mad tramp vibe about him. He's essentially playing the Joaquin Phoenix of the old west. 

So on the bright-side, The Lone Ranger is from the creative team that brought us the first Pirates Of The Caribbean film however on the downside, that is the same gang that also pooped out the increasingly shitty sequels too. In fact, this shares many of the qualities of those sequels with the films tone being so up and down that watching it is like going through the menopause. One second I'm meant to be sad about a character dying and the next I'm meant to be laughing that somebody has just had their face dragged through horse shit. Maybe somebody involved in the story suffers from bi-polar disorder because this emotional inconsistency runs all the way through the movie to the point where even all of the crazy 'fun' is tinged by melancholy. For some reason they've decided to use an old Tonto as a narrative device to book-end the film with an older iteration of his character telling us the story we're watching, however the old man just seems sad, lonely, and probably senile which admittedly might explain the movies lengthy and inconsistent vibe. Though just because the ageing Tonto might not know how to tell a story, that's not an excuse for director Gore Verbinski to justify his own lack of skill. Not to this extent anyway. In all honesty, I have no idea what this bookending thing is present for with it adding nothing but length although in its favour it does give the movie a refreshingly self-contained feel. However- I do have a theory... 

Having seen Verbinski's previous work it seems clear to me that the man is obsessed with the films of two other people.. Sergio Leone and Terry Gilliam. Or to be even more specific, I'd say Once Upon A Time In The West and The Adventures Of Baron Munchausen. Entire sequences of Gilliam's Munchausen appear to have been lifted and used in Pirates 3, with Munchausen also being bookended by an old man regaling us with the dubious facts of his extraordinary life. Although unlike Gilliam, Verbinski is not Terry Gilliam and so will only highlight his own inferiority by constantly stealing from him. It's like dressing Jackie Stallone up in Jennifer Lawrence's clothes to recreate The Fappening and expecting you not to fucking vomit. As for Leoni's epic, that too was pilfered for both Rango and Pirates 3, with this film obviously also using a railroad-focused plot, some similar shots, set-ups, and even several musical cues. Personally I have no problem with films referencing or homage-ing one another, however by being so derivative, I just ended up reminiscing about those better films and wishing I was watching them instead. Plus by stealing so much from those that are better than him, Verbinski's own talent becomes lost in a mix of unoriginality. Out of all of his films the only thing that I can identify as being exclusive to him seems to be an inability to direct a coherent movie that couldn't be described as being 'a bit shit'. 

In keeping with that, I think it's probably obvious that I too thought that The Lone Ranger was a bit shit. It was a bit shit- but actually.. I didn't hate it. There has been plenty of controversy surrounding the casting of the distinctly non-Native American Johnny Depp as a character that's clearly very much a native American. Rightly so too as this is an issue that runs throughout the entire movie with the biggest addition to his usual oddball performance being an uncomfortable sense of political dubiousness. At one point, his character even pretends to be one of the eastern railway workers to disguise himself from the villains. So essentially what you have is a white man playing a Native American that's pretending to be Chinese but with all the sensitivity of a fan-made script that was written by some fat fuck-waffle from the BNP. However it's bizarre choices like this that make the film so intriguing. It's all just so odd that you can't help but watch it and wonder who the hell gave them permission to make such a strange film. The plot and its twists might be more predictable than the outcome of inviting Mel Gibson to a Bar Mitzvah, but for better or worse its execution really isn't. In a world of formula, it's depressing to know that people can occasional make something that's such a mess that it becomes worth seeing for it's originality alone! 

Although for all its faults there's a climactic third act battle that's genuinely really good. The finale might only serve to highlight how lack-lustre the previous two and a fucking half hours have been but it almost makes them worth sitting through to get to it. It's also the point where Armie Hammer actually starts being really good having previously played the lead in a kind of cartoonish, campy tribute to Brendan Fraser's performance in The Mummy. Although for the record, Fraser was more likeable as this kind of goofy hero and even he's ended up fat, bald, and without a career. He was still alright though, I guess. The film felt like it was about four days long and I didn't end up hating him so I guess he must have been doing something right. Honestly I'd say that despite everything wrong with it, the film is 'alright' and certainly not worth the shit kicking that it got. It's not brilliant but it's so bizarrely bad that I'd more than happily watch it again in another year or so. It might not have been very good but it was certainly no Wild Wild West. I mean, there's 'not brilliant' and then there's the kind of shit that's so shit that it has the power to turn actual shit into gold by comparison. I think all of the hate probably did come from the rumoured production troubles, the original budget, and a sense that it was time to knock Depp of his cloud of unquestioned love. Although for the record, Depp's not awful in this movie, he's just too white to be able to play this character and not be racist. Just ignore the over-reactions from certain sections of the media and just give it a chance. It might not be brilliant but there are certainly worse things to do as we await the merciful comfort of death. Thanks for reading motherfuckers, and see you next time. 

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