The Lone Ranger
It’s surprising that this classic Western story hasn’t been
attempted more often on the big screen. The
story goes something like this: it’s
sometime in the 1880’s, the peak of the Wild West.
Politicians and tycoons are busy building the trans-continental
railroad, through Indian lands if necessary.
(Another painful reminder of how badly our ancestors treated their
ancestors. One nation’s
manifest destiny is another’s annihilation.)
Yes, there were gangs of outlaws, sometimes just robbing trains and
stagecoaches, and at other times being hired by ruthless entrepreneurs to
ravage family farms in Comanche guise, in this case to supply yet another
pretext to go slaughter the indigenous people and take their land.
The bad dude here is Butch Cavendish (William Fichtner), who ambushes a
whole posse of Texas Rangers, led by Dan Reid, who had just deputized his
brother, John (Armie Hammer), a recent law school graduate.
John, it turns, out, is the only survivor, but only because he was left
for dead along with the others. John
is found by a wandering Comanche named Tonto (Johnny Depp) and nurtured back
Now the legend of the Lone Ranger begins to take shape.
Tonto assures John that his survival means that the Sky Spirit is
watching over him, and that he will be invincible in battle.
Further, Tonto says that since his enemies believe him to be dead, it
would be good to wear a mask to obscure his identity (he wasn’t that famous
before, anyway). Then they happen
to meet a white horse along the way, and Tonto immediately pronounces the
horse as a gift from the Sky Spirit, as well.
So it seems we’re all ready to fight injustice, but wait….our
recent law school grad, intending to work for the county prosecutor, can’t
yet bring himself to work outside the law…that is, until he sees how corrupt
the law really is. The interim
gives Tonto a chance to act as crazy as his name, which means either
“crazy” or “silly,” depending on the context: wearing a dead bird on
his head and pretending to feed it, “trading” things with dead men (who
are hardly in a position to agree to the transaction), and occasionally
lapsing into a speaking-in-tongues kind of rhythmic chanting that no one else
can understand or interpret (which is part of the point).
Yes, Johnny Depp is actually the headliner in this movie, when in the
original story he’s more of a sidekick junior partner.
In this version, he’s the one who’s doing the training, and John
Reid, far from being the strong, silent, stoic folk hero, is more like a
chatterbox whiner and serial fussbudget.
But he sort of grows into the expectations of his role, particularly as
he realizes that the pretty young widow of his fallen brother isn’t really
the gal for him, anyway. But at
least he has a “home base” for his covert operations as resident Zorro
north of the border, or Robin Hood of the Wild West.
It’s a longish movie, and takes its time setting up for the final
dramatic close, but with the classic “William Tell Overture” playing in
the background, it boasts a rousing finish.
What’s most enjoyable about this film is its sense of humor, and
utilizing to the fullest Johnny Depp’s practiced tongue-in-cheek irony. How
long has it been since you’ve seen a fun Western?
Dr. Ronald P. Salfen, Minister, St.
Stephen’s Presbyterian Church,