I remember dressing up as The Lone Ranger one year for Halloween. It was also around this time, I wanna say 1980 that there was a Lone Ranger movie. Only two things I remember about that movie; that I saw it, and that they made action figures for it. The film must have been so bad because it has been forever lost in obscurity. You may find it listed on IMDB, but I don't think they even know it existed at one time? So I went ahead and looked it up. THE LEGEND OF THE LONE RANGER was released in 1981 and was indeed a box office bomb. Apparently you can watch it on Amazon's Instant Video service. I might be planning a bad movie night pretty soon?
When I had heard that Disney was making a Lone Ranger movie with Jerry Bruckheimer producing, my interest went to zero. Gore Verbinski directing and Johnny Depp staring did not sweeten the deal either. When the trailer hit things were actually looking good except for Depp as Tonto just looking like a Captain Jack Sparrow wannabe. It wasn't until the final trailer before release that I decided to see the film in the theater. Doubts started to creep back in when mediocre reviews started showing up but I tend to ignore things like that anyway.
Lawyer John Reid rides along with his brother Texas Ranger Dan Reid to nab the dastardly Butch Cavendish and bring him to justice. In an ambush Butch and his gang kill all seven rangers including John and his brother. Disgraced Comanche Indian Tonto comes across the dead bodies only to find that John Reid isn't dead but in fact a spirit warrior and thus The Lone Ranger is born. The new duo decide to go after Butch and bring him to justice. Along the way they discover a evil scheme involving sliver and the railroad.
For the most part the new movie stays true to the origin of Lone Ranger with the exception of a few things here and there and of course making the character Tonto more interesting than just a sidekick.
There is nothing special about the story in THE LONE RANGER. Greedy business types trying to control the railroad is nothing new in a western. I don't want to read into the movie too much but I wanna give Verbinski and the screenwriters credit for some subtext that the villain of the film is progress. White man stealing sliver and causing Native Americans to relocate or worse start a war. All of that just for total control of the railroad
What kept my eyes glued to the screen was the direction of Gore Verbinski and his love for the western genre. The opening of the movie made me think of LITTLE BIG MAN. A 100 year old Tonto telling a young boy about the legend of the Lone Ranger isn't just a coincidence. There were a few scenes that reminded me of ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE WEST, THE GENREAL, and John Ford westerns with the monument valley backdrops. The score by Hans Zimmer had a few Spaghetti Western touches. I swore I heard Frank's theme from ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE WEST a few times?
When I started writing this review I planned on talking about all the homages I noticed but this film is a good enough movie that I decided not to spoil the fun. Fans of westerns should have a blast! I don't see THE LONE RANGER becoming a franchise and I'm fine with that. The fact that Gore Verbinski made a awesome Western is good enough for me!