Before we begin - as I sat to watch The Lone Ranger, the $200 million plus misfire that hit theaters and disappointed critics last Summer, I knew I wasn't watching The Godfather. I knew that this was one of the biggest failures of the last few years. However, there are a lot of talented people who contributed to the picture and I wanted to see how it all went wrong. Ultimately, it went wrong for the same reasons as a lot of terrible movies. Some of the most egregious, and common, problems are listed below. Let me know in the comments section if you agree or if I missed any that rankled you.
1. Flat, uninteresting characters whom we are supposed to care about
Armie Hammer plays John Reid as a boring, obnoxious, holier-than-thou, law-spouting wimp. We are supposed to care about him and believe that he can rise to the occasion as a hero. I don't believe he can even ride a horse. He awkwardly attempts to box different characters throughout the film; it is sad.
2. Serious plot holes solved by magic. Or magic animals. Or not solved.
On several occasions in this movie, the heroes are saved by a magical horse. Any time the screenwriters got themselves or the heroes into a corner they just brought in the magical horse. The audience is supposed to find this amusing, I think. We are meant to chuckle at that "darn, crazy horse" any time he shows up on a barn roof, or standing on a tree limb in a cavern under a mine that has just exploded, or running along the top of a speeding train. Or when he licks and eats several scorpions off of The Lone Ranger's head and saves him from being buried alive. Seriously. It is insulting that this is supposed to be entertaining. I can picture the crew on set asking "OK, so how do we get them out of this predicament?" (I can imagine them asking it on set instead of before production rolled because this seems like a movie that was filmed before the script was finished. Or the "set pieces" of action were determined first and then shoe horned into the story any way possible. Like with a magic horse.) Some dolly grip casually remarks "why not bring that stupid horse in here to save them?" And Jerry Bruckheimer thinks it is an awesome idea.
3. TOTALLY obvious villains and plot twists.
Come on. Look at Tom Wilkinson in this picture. From the moment he steps into frame you think "clearly, that is the bad guy." Yet we are supposed to be surprised when we discover 90 minutes into the movie that he is THE bad guy! Who is this movie written for? Who is paying so little attention that this would be shocking news? Maybe the filmmakers were hoping we all took a bathroom and snack break in between the ridiculous action scenes and missed any sort of dialogue, plot, exposition, or character introductions.
4. Worse than weak female characters.
Look! This movie has female characters in it! Why, I am not sure. It gives us two female characters (who each got their own one-sheet posters!) who are supposedly strong-willed women - women you take seriously. Helena Bonham Carter's character has a fake leg made of ivory which every man seems mesmerized by. Her actual leg was apparently EATEN by William Fichtner's character. I kid you not. Ruth Wilson's character is basically a damsel in distress. Neither of them are given anything interesting to do or say in the entire film. It is insulting to women that these characters are what made it on the screen. This movie would have failed the Bechdel Test miserably (the Bechdel test asks whether the movie has A) at least two named women in it B) who talk to each other C) about something besides a man), so why bother? P.S. G.I.Joe: Retaliation passes the Bechdel Test.
Oh, dang, I take it back. Helena Bonham Carter DOES shoot a cart full of explosives using a gun that is built into her fake leg. Honestly, her fake, ivory, result-of-cannibalism leg is ALSO a gun. Somewhere the screenwriter of Wild Wild West is kicking himself for not thinking of that for Salma Hayek's one-dimensional female character. Also, Ruth Wilson plays a mother in early 1900s Australia in Saving Mr. Banks. It looks like she just wore the same costumes. Is she Disney's new go-to actress for a woman in an old-west style picture? She needs to play an astronaut, stat. No more corsets for a while.
5. A kid.
This movie, like so many before it, has a kid in it. The kid is another plot device (like a magical horse) that can get the hero out of a jam. Like the computer whiz kid in Jurassic Park (or the gymnastic kid in Jurassic Park: The Lost World or the survivalist kid in Jurassic Park 3), this one has skills that can help the hero out. The Lone Ranger's brother, the child's father (or is he!?!??), gives the kid a slingshot. Within days, this kid can hit any target with that thing. Kids aren't like this. Kids aren't able to hack the Pentagon, or re-route traffic cameras, or load automatic weapons while riding in a dune buggy. I have kids. They cannot do any of this. Movie kids, however, are experts at this sort of stuff. The kid in this movie spends most of his time whining, crying, or playing with toys. OK, wait, maybe he is like my kids.
6. Stuff blowing up for no reason.
I get it. Audiences love explosions. The bigger, the louder, the better. But certainly audiences must also understand that some things do NOT explode. Driving a train through a wooden barn or fence does not result in an explosion. There is no huge fireball created. Certainly we must all understand this, right? Right??!? I imagine Jerry Bruckheimer and Gore Verbinski asking the effects team after every shot "hey, where was the explosion?" and being told by a competent person that there was no explosion because not everything blows up. Then I imagine them firing that person. Lesson learned.
7. Johnny Depp mugging it up.
What the hell happened to Johnny Depp? What Captain Jack Sparrow giveth, he also took away. He took away an interesting actor who made bold choices and unique films. Now we are left with a huge celebrity who does whatever he wants whenever he wants. No director or producer can rein him in. Honestly, in this movie there is a scene where Johnny Depp puts a bird cage over his head. He opens the door of the cage and says "afraid of cat" before closing it and running away. I do not, for one instance, believe that was in the screenplay. I think Johnny saw a bird cage on set one day and just "went with it." I think he see it as an inspired choice. That is what is now wrong with Johnny Depp.
8. Mismatched hero back stories.
Armie Hammer's Lone Ranger backstory is, I suppose, tragic. His true love possibly had his baby (although, thankfully, that is never explored fully) and married his brother. The brother is murdered in a horrible manner (by the way, this movie has some seriously graphic violence suggested. Gore Verbinski spent 90% of the movie making this as watered-down, family friendly, no-consequence action and then thought better of it and added 10% of scalping, cannibalism, and people getting their hearts cut out.) and must be avenged. OK, he has a legitimate beef with the villains. Also, they kidnap his love and her son. They do NOT harm them. But they are kidnapped - and that is wrong.
Tonto, on the other hand, had his entire tribe slaughtered by the villains. He is abandoned a few times by The Lone Ranger (once leaving him buried in earth with scorpions all around, another time after knocking him unconscious and depriving him of his decades-sought revenge) and then watches ANOTHER tribe of Native Americans slaughtered.
We are supposed to root for The Lone Ranger and agree with him when he wants to take his brother's murderer to the law for justice. His pain should be felt more acutely than Tonto's (who has lost dozens of family members and become a crazy outcast because of this man).
The conflict over who has more of a right to be upset leads, inevitably, to monologues. Serious, face-to-face confrontations between our heroes while the bad guy just sits on the ground. Why does this happen in movies? Do actors just look forward to these scenes? They get to really dig into their feelings and square off with one another? As an audience member I just want them to kill the guy or not kill the guy. I fully expected the bad guy to just get up and walk away while Tonto and the Lone Ranger have their moment. Ugh.
So...that's the list. This movie was aggravating for a hundred other reasons, but those were the top of the heap. There was a chance to make an interesting, rousing action/adventure movie here and possibly to launch a franchise. Instead, the filmmakers chose to go for the franchise first and misfired all along the way. Let me know what you think in the comment section below.