Thursday, August 1, 2013

The Lone Ranger

The Lone Ranger – 149m – Pg-13

This movie is the personification of a red light film. This is another churn and burn action movie that has potential as a story but instead of actually doing anything with it, they took Pirates of the Caribbean and moved it to the desert. This movie was poorly constructed, insulting and miles away from what the Disney brand name represents as a standard in family entertainment.

I have so many problems with this movie the spoiler section is going to encompass most of this review so I am going to not do a spoiler section for this review. I am going to talk about spoilers throughout this review. You have been warned!!!!!

This movie is told from Tonto’s (Johnny Depp) point of view to a young man (Mason Cook) who has paid to see a Wild West exhibit. Tonto explains the events that lead John Reid (Armie Hammer) to become a masked ranger to protect his loved ones and bring justice to a wild and unruly west.

This movie is an excellent example of what is wrong with our copyright system. It seems to me that the rights to the Lone Ranger were almost up so Disney had push anything out to keep control over this property. I have no problem with using the properties if you have an actual use for it, but I disapprove of putting something out just to keep it yours. Let someone who loves this story and might be able to tell a better story take it from there OR get those people involved in the project from the beginning and keep the copyright alive with a quality product.

I am a Native American. I am a member of the Hoopa tribe by blood. I sometimes joke about being offended at some things that are misrepresenting Native Americans in pop culture and entertainment. This time I AM offended.

When I heard that Tonto was going to be a major part in the movie I thought “alright. Hollywood is expanding the character and making some changes to recognize some of the wrongs that it has done to the Native Americans in the past.” Mmm not so much. To play this newly envisioned role they cast Johnny Depp -- who is an excellent actor, and might even have some Native American ancestry in his family tree. However, there are many actual Native American actors who could have done just as well. Off the top of my head some of them are Adam Beach, Rodney A. Grant, and Eddie Spears.

I could see all of them filling the shoes of Jay Silverheels who defined the role in the television series. The only real natives in the film are again resigned to set dressing and stereotypical roles.

Poor casting choices were only a small portion of the problems with Tonto. Our first images of him are as a stuffed Indian in an exhibit called The Noble Savage in his Natural Habitat. He is not stuffed he is just a really old man standing around waiting for people to look at him. I felt bad they brought the character down to a side show oddity.

I know that Native Americans joined traveling wild west shows but it would have been better to have Tonto sitting at the door inside the exhibit hall like an employee of the establishment or a tour guide. It would have been more respectful to the character to have the kid and Tonto travel down memory lane in that context.

At least that’s as bad as it… No, wait it gets worse. Tonto is a severely damaged character because of a tragedy in his past that resulted in the loss of his village. He showed some white men a big vein of silver and they repayed him by giving him a watch for the journey and killing his village to keep the find secret. He returns to see everyone including his pet raven dead. He has vowed to find the people who did this and kill them. On the surface, this is not that bad but on this crazy journey he wears the dead bird on his head and talks and feeds it constantly throughout the film. It becomes a running joke about him feeding this dead bird on his head.

The revenge portions of his character or making him tortured are fine but why make him barking moonbat crazy? He came off as an escaped cast member of “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest”. If the director (Gore Verbinski) was using this to give Tonto an edge so that people would not pay attention to him, he wasted his time. Tonto was already invisible. He was an Indian -- people of that time underestimated them and counted them just above dumb animals.

The end of the movie has Tonto walking into the desert mural almost a “Being There” moment where we are supposed to be dumbfounded at what we just saw. Then we get the credits rolling as we watch Johnny Depp doing his 1000 year old man impression off into the sunset. I get that they were trying to make Tonto a spiritual figure one that embodied the west but that idea flew about as well as the dead bird on his head.

To the filmmakers credit they did at least get an actual member of the Comanche tribe to come in and consult on the props, costumes and even helped coach Johnny Depp with the language. He should have been asked to look at the script.

The rest of the cast did well with the roles and there was nothing outstanding about them, they fit the bill for this type of film.

I do have a problem with the level of viciousness of bad guy. If this were a movie with a different production company name I would have no problem with the level of violence perpetrated by the bad guy. This however was a Disney brand movie. The Disney brand is synonymous with Family Entertainment, and having a character cut out a person’s heart and eat it on screen is anything but family entertainment.

This level of violence isn't uncalled for by this character. Disney movies have always had brutal content, but we have never seen it happen on screen. We don’t actual see him eat the heart it but we do see it from behind and in the reflection of John’s eye. I am wondering if there are plans for a Lone Ranger ride at the parks now. Do we get to see an animatronic Butch Cavendish (William Fichtner) eating harts and covered in blood as kids ride by?

The Brothel scene was stretching it a bit. It’s perfect for the setting and it needs to be a part of a movie that is set in this timeframe but again the Disney brand implies certain standard of what you can expect to see. I look back at the other pirates movies and see where the standards have slipped ever so slowly down to the point where the production company doesn’t even blink an eye at this. Walt Disney is rolling over in his Cryo Tube.

They should make a separate production company for these kind of films to preserve the image of family entertainment associated with Disney. I just have a problem with the Disney name being directly associated with this film.

Did you see it and how do you feel? Am I off the mark? Should we get together and tell Disney we want our childhoods back?

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