One of my grad-school buddies sent me a recent e-mail (and yes, kids, some of us older folks still do send each other lengthy e-mails because text messages just don’t allow us to share extended thought). He knew my penchant for movies, and so he wanted to share with me his thoughts on a recent opening:
“Saw ‘The Lone Ranger’ over the weekend.
“As for the movie, which as you know got decidedly mixed reviews, I was looking for summer escapism and found it.
“Lots shout outs to other movies – you would know better than me – and a lot of off the wall humor – like Tonto cranking a blindfolded LR down the tracks on one of those push things – like in ‘Oh Brother Where Art Thou’ (itself an allusion movie).
“Anyway, pretty quirky and entertaining I thought.A fun ride.
“Almost as good as ‘Pirate Radio.’ “
I need to add here that my friend loved “Pirate Radio,” which I think is a relatively average movie. But he thought so much of it he went on a letter-writing campaign aimed at his local film critic, who hated it. Enough said there.
As for his feelings about “The Lone Ranger,” here is my response:
Almost as good as “Pirate Radio” indeed. Did you get in a spitting match with the local critic over her/her crappy review?
Afraid I wasn’t as big a fan as you. My problem is that I see so many of these things that unless it is awesomely original and funny I tend to go "meh." Which is what I did here.
First off, I was never a big fan of the LR in the first place and was curious as to how they were going to update it. My choice would have been to go dark the way Marvel did with “Batman,” minimizing the Western myths and making him a horse-riding masked avenger (a la “The Dark Knight”). Instead, the production team – led, I suppose, by director Gore Verbinski – opted for camp. Not my taste.
Second, while I did smile at Johnny Depp’s work, I quickly realized that he was just channeling Captain Jack Sparrow (but now using a dead crow as his meme). And as entertaining as that might be, at times, it’s already been done. In, by my count, at least four other movies (with a fifth forthcoming).
Third, while the CGI was – as usual – amazing, it did what it tends to do in Hollywood blockbusters: It overpowered character and story and every other aspect of the project. I was, fairly quickly, reduced to thinking, “That’s amazing. I wonder how they did that?” Which totally took me out of the movie.
Fourth, other than Depp’s Tonto – and I’m not going to address the notion that his performance is racist; others have done that better than I – no other character in the film is worthy of attention. I love William Fichtner, Barry Pepper and James Badge Dale, but all were given far too little to do. Armie Hammer? He belongs on a GQ photo shoot.
Fifth, and finally, the whole thing was just too overblown. I know that was the point. And I know that, for you, that was part of the “fun ride” quality that you so admired. But in the seemingly endless onslaught of “summer escapism” we find ourselves in, I find myself desiring just a touch of subtlety.
For that, though, I’ll probably have to wait until the fall movie season. Or turn to my television set. Have you watched any of the Netflix original series “Orange Is the New Black”? It’s my new obsession.
You won’t like it as much as “Pirate Radio,” though. Just saying.