The Lone Ranger isn't technically a sequel to the Pirates of the Caribbean, but really, it was. Replace this film's trains with pirate ships and Armie Hammer with Orlando Bloom, and we'd be talking about Pirates IV. Unfortunately, the quality of Disney's fourth attempt at a Johnny Depp showcase continued the downward trend of that franchise. It took way too long to do way too little, and if not for Depp's apparent inability to be bad in anything, it would have been all but devoid of entertainment.
It's not just that the film was too long, or that some scenes dragged on a bit, individual shots seemed to linger long past the point of relevance. I bet there are at least 8 solid minutes of establishing shots of people arriving various places on horseback. That's fine for the slow pace of a classic suspenseful western, but not for an action/comedy that refuses to take itself seriously. I've seen neorealist Italian film from the 40s that were more fast-paced than The Lone Ranger. The scenes with Ruth Wilson are particularly soporific, and I didn't buy her chemistry with Armie Hammer one bit.
The whole love story is hard to swallow. It begins with the death of the Hammer's brother, who was also Wilson's husband. However, we quickly learn that she's really been in love with Hammer the whole time, so don't worry about the dead brother. No, seriously. Having the Ranger deal with his survivor's guilt was the only edge this film could have had, and it was blunted immediately. The rest of the affair is sufficiently trite, and they live happily ever after without any regard for the dearly departed.
But let's talk about the positives. Johnny Depp is still fun to watch, whatever he's doing, and Tonto is by far the most enjoyable part of The Lone Ranger. He also plays the role of narrator, as the film is set up as being recounted by an elderly Tonto. Accordingly, the scenes outside the story are some of the best, and his bit of continually trying to feed the obviously dead raven on his head got me every time. It was also nice to see Helena Bonham Carter, albeit briefly, though I have to wonder if she didn't take her very small part just because she hadn't been in a movie with Johnny Depp in the last few months.
Speaking of casting decisions, if you're worried about having a white man play a Native American, don't be, it's hardly the most offensive part of this film. Another one of Depp's bits is that he's always “trading” with people, which includes looting dead men of their valuables and “paying” them with birdseed. The insensitive irony of these unilateral trade agreements wouldn't be that bad if simply left untouched, but at one point the Ranger actually takes Tonto aside and explains to him that a “a trade is not a trade unless both sides agree to it.” Despite my own overwhelming whiteness, I wanted to scream “well someone should have told the white man that!”
Overall, The Lone Ranger is like a big bowl of candy corn. “Candy Corn?” you might say, “... I've heard of that, it's an American classic.” But if you actually try it, it's pretty bland and you're tired of it after a few minutes. Now imagine sitting down and eating the entire two and half hour long bowl. Go ahead and skip this one.