With all the lead up to the movie being so intense here at Overmanwarrior’s Wisdom my lack of a review for The Lone Ranger was simply due to the fact that I was on vacation with my family when the film was released and there wasn’t time to physically go see the movie. On two occasions while I was vacationing in Florida I intended to take my family to see The Lone Ranger, once at Downtown Disney, but had to withdrawal because the day was already overbooked, and then again at Merritt Square Mall which was down the road from our Atlantic Coast condo. But there, getting everyone together to see the movie on a busy schedule while also coming and going from Disney World was nearly impossible, so I delayed my viewing until we were able to return home in Ohio.
But I did read the reviews that were coming in from our sea-side balcony which were actually hostile to The Lone Ranger which gave me great suspicion. When I write about a movie with grand enthusiasm the reason is usually more than the film just being good, but because I see the struggle of the film makers to overcome the real Ellsworth Tooheys of the media who were trained by statist oriented education practices to recognize a threat to their social fabric which The Lone Ranger represents, and to assassinate such creative endeavors before they see the light of day. I have spoken at great length about this very thing occurring with Christopher Nolan from The Dark Knight trilogy where critics attacked Nolan for his obvious warnings about an overly altruistic society. Critics blasted Dark Knight Rises once they realized that the film was a not very concealed warning about communism in society after building up the social anticipation from the previous two films without such obvious proclamations. Nolan saved his message for the final film, which made a billion dollars at the box office in spite of the terrible reviews the film received. With The Lone Ranger I expected to see even after the extremely negative reviews, a movie from Disney that was just good ol’ fashion fun—I did not expect yet another film with very heavy opinions against the government position of collectivism over the traditional rugged individualism that built America from the start. Coming from the Disney Studios I expected a more disguised effort, especially with Johnny Depp staring as Tonto, and sharing a producing credit. But if the nation is divided equally down the middle with Tea Party type Americans on one side, and welfare collecting altruists on the other, Disney usually makes films that all types of people will enjoy. This is good for their box office numbers, but runs counter to the type of messages that Walt Disney himself believed who actually testified before a congressional committee against communism during the height of the McCarthy Hearings. But this Lone Ranger was made by Disney to show favor toward the former of those demographic groups and not the later.
When The Lone Ranger is introduced as a young lawyer traveling from the East Coast by train the first bits of dialogue which come from Armie Hammer who was confronted by a religious group advocating Bible studies, was to hold up his copy of John Locke’s The Second Treatise of Government and declare, “This is my Bible.” Upon that startling declaration I immediately knew why the film reviews were so terrible as The Lone Ranger was in love with America, and was making no mistake about it. The film was setting out to attack many misconceptions about events which took place during a period of almost perfect capitalism in The United States, during the late 1800s. The Second Treatise of Government was one of the foundation books which people like Thomas Jefferson used to help shape the argument about the kind of country that America would be. Modern Americans who regularly attend Tea Party events know that John Locke is one of the philosophers who opened the door to the way of thinking that distinctly became freedom loving. To altruists, this is a major social danger as any message that exhibits freedom as one of the highest human endeavors also seeks to be free from social stupidity, the self-determined poor (lazy people), and the malcontents of civilization. Social progressives have desired for years to shape American thought into reflecting European sentiment of sacrifice, shared suffering, and a focus on the “greater good” while steering the educated masses away from a personal love of individual freedom. Opening the film with a direct node to John Locke was a bold declaration that I was surprised made it past the Disney executives screening the film. It’s possible that some of them did not know what the book meant to American foundation, but it is unlikely to have slipped by so many eyes without anybody knowing, especially Johnny Depp, who has been known to show up to film screenings showing his open support of Che Guevara. I thought the John Locke reference was quite extraordinary but the references did not end there so I know that it was not an accident.
The film continued on as a fantastic western that was often a cross between the old Sergio Leone westerns composed musically by Ennio Morricone and the hysterical romp through the old west that was touched on by Back to the Future III. The movie was very funny at times as Johnny Depp’s Tonto was brilliantly eccentric. The film was wonderfully photographed, evenly paced, and was very passionate about its subject matter. It was an unapologetic western that might have been an early episode of the TV show Davy Crockett, only with Industrial Light and Magic doing some spectacular visual effects. The stunts were ambitious, and the scope of the project was mammoth. It was the largest scale western I think has ever been attempted. But The Lone Ranger himself does not drink, does not curse, does not use tobacco (he refused when offered), he does not want to kill people, and is a naively good guy from the beginning to the end of the film. The only character arch that John Reid embarked on evolving from the beginning to the end was in hardening up from a naive lawyer to a man who isn’t afraid to pull the trigger on a bad guy by the end of the film. Reid never had a moment of weakness in the film where he got drunk, caved into the seductions of a woman, or lost his moral compass. He was firmly focused on justice from the beginning of the film till the very end.
The bad guy in the film however was Cole played brilliantly by Tom Wilkinson. I suspect that many of the reviewers who wrote such bad things about The Lone Ranger as a movie saw themselves as the evil character Cole, who spoke often very flowery about the need for “social sacrifice,” the “greater good,” and destroying entire groups of people if they stood in his way of vision for progress. The film showed the Indian rebellions with extraordinary glory which was much more epic than Dances with Wolves ever managed, and even captured how the United States cavalry found itself caught in an uncompromising position of picking sides. It was a complicated series of events that were manipulated by the villain Cole who appeared to be a good guy though 2/3rds of the movie.
By the time The Lone Ranger had competed his hero journey and arrived with his horse Silver to save the day at the end of the film with his six guns in his hands, a bullwhip on his hip and his uncompromising white hat running across the rooftops of the town on a horse to jump onto a moving train all to the William Tell Overture I thought I had died and gone to heaven. For me that scene was the best moment of movie magic I have experienced since I was 12 years old and Indiana Jones ran his horse down a hillside to jump onto a moving truck to save the Ark of the Covenant from the evil Nazis. There was pure magic in The Lone Ranger which was none stop for the last half hour of the film. It helped that I went to the movie as a Lone Ranger fan as I think I have seen every bit of film ever produced about the Lone Ranger, but nobody makes movies like The Lone Ranger any more. The last real attempt was the Indiana Jones films which I constantly thought about during the film. Ironically, Indiana Jones was modeled after the old Lone Ranger Republic Serials, so the ending to The Lone Ranger was a tribute to the history of film that took action to the next level. The Lone Ranger was an instant favorite of mine that will go on my top twenty list.
But what was different about this Lone Ranger as opposed to other renditions was that Tonto was extraordinarily good. Johnny Depp created one of the best characters of his career with Tonto and I found the scenes that took place in 1933 as the old Tonto was telling The Lone Ranger story to a little boy to be emotionally captivating. These scenes were simply Johnny Depp at his absolute finest as an actor. Tonto was a social outcast to his tribe that was living life with one firm foot planted into the spirit world and saw reality all too clearly giving the impression that he was insane through most of the film. But he wasn’t, and it was obvious by the end of the film that Tonto as an extremely old man was deeply committed to the actual reality of justice that is hidden to most of the world, portraying a Yoda quality from The Empire Strikes Back that was captivating as a performance all by itself.
The only regret that I have about the movie is that I feel like it was made for people like me in mind, traditional Americans who love westerns, and characters who are uncompromisingly good. It will not make a billion dollars at the box office like Iron Man and the last Pirates of the Caribbean film. It will be lucky to recover its $215 million dollar budget, which is unheard of for a western. Only a company like Disney could have made a film like this, which was risky, so it is unlikely that Armie Hammer will have the chance to reprise his Lone Ranger role in the way that Robert Downey Jr has for Iron Man, and make future films. The film by Jerry Bruckheimer and directed by Gore Verbinski using music by Hans Zimmer pulled out all the stops to make a great film under the penmanship of Ted Elliott, Justin Haythe, and Terry Rossio. Everyone involved with The Lone Ranger is among the best in their fields of endeavor, and it is a shame that the magic will probably never be seen again, because the box office will prevent it. The Lone Ranger is one of those films that will percolate in America culture for a long time. It will not have a big pop at the box office, but will be watched and loved for many years in a quiet way as viewers find it wonderfully good, but unsure why they like it so much while critics and industry professionals declare that it is such a bad film. It is not the film that is bad for progressive types, but the message. Most people seeing The Lone Ranger cannot identify with the hero. But they will identify with the villain, and that tends to make people angry. Angry people do not throw down nearly a hundred dollars to see The Lone Ranger, which is what it cost me by the time we bought tickets and snacks, a rarity for us as a family. I spent extra money at the theater knowing that a majority of the movie goers were not spending money on The Lone Ranger, so we broke our rule and bought the overpriced popcorn and drinks anyway, to support the film, and theater showing it.
Those critics missed the points and represent most opinions……………
Disney can roll the dice on movies like The Lone Ranger because they have so many other profitable revenue streams, which is just another benefit of capitalism. I think the film will make its money back in the worldwide market so Disney won’t lose its money and Johnny Depp won’t lose face from his production credit. Jerry Bruckheimer will continue to have successful films, including Pirates of the Caribbean 5 which is coming up in 2015. But this will unfortunately be the last ride of this particular Lone Ranger, and that is unfortunate. But if not for Disney, it would have never happened to begin with. And because it did, I am very grateful.