The Lone Ranger

By Cory Haggart

Mailed on February 25, 2014

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Dear Mike Thurman
Set Dressing Gangboss

Dear Mike,

If making movies is all about making choices, then it’s clear that director Gore Verbinski chose d). All of the above.

The Lone Ranger is filled up to its extra-wide brim. No matter what an audience’s hopes, this movie will absolutely meet them. Unfortunately, to deliver on such a promise, Verbinski had to say yes to everything—including a running time of two-and-a-half hours. While many will certainly enjoy parts of this movie, they’ll have to sit through two hours and twenty minutes of the other stuff, too.

This probably kept you busy, Mike. Saying yes to everything means dressing your sets, from scene to scene, in layers upon layers of red velvet drapery and fine desert sand. And you really do say yes to everything. To the sumptuous materials and carnival camp creations of Baz Luhrman’s Moulin Rouge! or The Great Gatsby and Tim Burton’s Helena Bonham Carter. To gritty-but-romanticized John Ford and Sergio Leone mountains, shacks, and bars. To blackish comedy and simple gags that recall everything from Jim Jarmusch’s Dead Man to a Disney movie (any one, really). There’s even the tiniest hint of the sort of creepy art film that Jodorowski or Rob Zombie might introduce to highlight the true instability of the real Wild West.

These layers extend to the shot choices, the script, the acting, and the Oscar-nominated makeup. This complex pastiche even extends to the story itself, in which Armie Hammer becomes the Lone Ranger to reunite with his lost love, avenge his brother, avenge himself, solve a mystery, discover true friendship, and save the West. Fittingly, he both succeeds and fails in each of these endeavors, much like the movie succeeds and fails as any one of a number of different movies.

Everything you guys do is a reference to another, better, more focused movie. None of the elements of the pastiche are original…save one. The Tonto of this movie, played by Johnny Depp, is an original. Sure, the character was stolen from Verbinski’s own Pirates of the Carribean series, but turning Keith Richards into Jack Sparrow, and Jack Sparrow into Tonto, and turning Tonto into the narrator – and in some ways a distant hero of the story (in that he is there with us to watch the movie unfold, like Indiana Jones in Raiders of the Lost Ark) – is the film’s sole act of bravery. Looking at Depp in that makeup, I’m pretty sure no one else could have seen the potential in this guy.

But it’s the obscene running time that keeps this from being a better movie. Cutting it would have involved making choices that the no one wanted to make. Like saying no to…anything.

I could go on. But I won’t.



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