"Hi-yo Silver, away!"
That's what critics are saying about "The Lone Ranger," Disney's attempt to reboot the Western hero as a summer blockbuster hero — but what many critics really mean is "Hi-yo Silver, go away."
The Johnny Depp and Armie Hammer-starring action flick is experiencing a rough ride as it rolls into theaters. Some reviewers are charmed by Depp's turn as Comanche warrior Tonto, while others are left cold, or worse. Likewise, many have praised the film's final action scene — a sequence involving two runaway trains and multiple shoot-outs — but many of those same champions admit that the fun comes far too late in the game.
Read on for more of what critics are saying about "The Lone Ranger," in theaters today.
The (Mildly Spoilerish) Story
"The plot, though overly complicated in the telling, is actually quite simple. Educated lawyer John Reid (Armie Hammer) returns to his hometown of Colby, TX, on a train that's carrying the fearsomely violent bad guy Butch Cavendish (William Fichtner), who is being hauled in by the local civic bigwig Latham Cole (Tom Wilkinson) so that the killer can be publicly hanged in order to assure the townsfolk of their safety. Also on the train bringing Butch and John to Colby is Tonto (Johnny Depp), a mystical, deadpan Comanche whom we eventually learn has been shunned by his tribe and has revenge on his mind due to events from his past. After Cavendish pulls off an elaborate escape with the help of his gang, a posse led by John's older brother Dan (James Badge Dale) hunt down the bandits until they are ambushed and massacred by the Cavendish crew. Surprisingly, John survives the attack and is rescued by Tonto, who informs the gun-shy Texan that he is now a spirit warrior who can't be killed in battle. John dons a black mask, and he and Tonto work together to seek vengeance." — Perry Seibert, TVGuide.com
The Quick and the Depp
"Despite earlier reports, his Tonto is not Jack Sparrow of the West. The character is more subdued, the laugh lines a little more nuanced. ... Depp, even though he is hidden deep in make-up and wears a dead bird (or is it?) on his head for much of the film, still manages to draw us in. Unlike Sparrow, Tonto is not flamboyant. He is smart and patient as he carries around the weight of a childhood trauma." — Clint O'Connor, Cleveland.com
The Weak and the Depp
"'The Lone Ranger's' major weakness-aside from its running time-is its portrayal of Depp's Tonto. It attempts to modernize the Lone Ranger's sidekick-though not by changing the character, who remains a pidgin-speaking quasi-mystic. Rather, it changes his context; instead of being presented as an archetypal noble savage, Tonto is portrayed as an outsider, regarded by the other Comanche-who are more concerned with treaties and boundaries than animism-as mentally ill. He's a sad pariah who has dealt with trauma by retreating into a fantasy world inspired by children's bedtime stories. It's a clever bit of revisionism, but it doesn't entirely work, because, in trying to paint Tonto as a demented do-gooder, 'The Lone Ranger' ends up falling back on the same Western iconography that it's supposed to be subverting." — Ignatiy Vishnevetsky, The A.V. Club
The Back-Handed Compliment
"Its to-do list is ambitious. One: Dust off a proto-superhero from the radio-drama days, and sell him to the new 'Sherlock Holmes' crowd. Two: Allow Johnny Depp, whose flamboyant Jack Sparrow turned Verbinski's 'Pirates of the Caribbean' films into blockbusters, to run riot as Tonto, a rogue Comanche wearing witch-doctor makeup and a crow on his head. Three: Flip manifest destiny on its head by putting the Indian ahead of the cowboy. 'The Lone Ranger' succeeds on all counts -- perhaps too well. The movie is so imaginative, so brimming with ideas that it can't quite decide what to be." — Rafer Guzman, Newsday.com
The Final Word
"'The Lone Ranger' revels in its sense of excess but it doesn't get fun until that final twenty minutes. It's hard to deny that the final chase in and around two moving trains is entertaining and 'The William Tell Overture' helps things immensely. That's the only part of the movie when Hammer seems to be channeling the real Lone Ranger. As a Western action-comedy, this finds a middle ground between the awfulness of 'The Wild Wild West' and the solid entertainment of 'Maverick.' Verbinski gives a nod to the TV series by desaturating color in some scenes, thereby reducing almost everything to a monochrome. Somehow, that seems to be an appropriate metaphor for a motion picture that's tone deaf and wasteful of blockbuster dollars. The Lone Ranger will continue to ride in the memories of fans but this is likely the last time he'll ride in a major motion picture." — James Berardinelli, ReelViews.com
Check out everything we've got on "The Lone Ranger."