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 to health.
            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, Irving , Texas