In 2003, Johnny Depp and director Gore Verbiniski managed to take a Disney theme park ride and, against all odds, turned it into a fantasticly entertaining summer blockbuster with Pirates Of The Caribbean. Depp’s creation, Captain Jack Sparrow, is probably the most iconic character of the last decade. The two are teaming up again to adapt another Disney staple, The Lone Ranger.
This go around, Depp plays Tonto, the sidekick of The Lone Ranger. So right off the bat, you have a problem: your big star isn’t the title character. The story tries to center itself around Tonto as much as possible, by introducing him as an old man telling a young boy the story of The Lone Ranger in flashbacks. But there’s only so much screentime that you can give to a sidekick, and Depp milks every moment he has. Not surprisingly, he gives the film energy and a real sense of fun.
But there’s major scenes that Depp isn’t in, and it falls on Armie Hammer to carry the weight. Its The Social Network co-star first big starring role, and he struggles to pull it off. While he finally discovers the fun of the role in the final act, most of the time he fails to deliver the charisma needed for this type of role. It’s obvious that Depp would outshine Hammer when they share a scene together, but when Armie does get “lone” screentime, he doesn’t rise to the occasion.
Just like Pirates, the plot in the western is unnecessarily heavy, but it doesn’t have the cast of characters (beyond Depp) to lighten the load. William Fichtner playing the villain is no Geoffrey Rush (who was severely underrated as Barbossa), Ruth Wilson does little with the damsel-in-distress role, and Tom Wilkinson seems about as confused about his role as the audience is. You’ll be longing for Orlando Bloom and Keira Knightley to turn up. Depp’s frequent co-star Helena Bonham Carter pops up as the owner of a whorehouse (it’s like she just changed her wig from Les Miserables and moseyed on over to the west). She’s a lot of fun, but don’t let the ads decieve you: her role is more of an extended cameo, only popping up in 3 quick scenes. They should have figured out a way to get her in this more. You shouldn’t cast Carter alongside Depp, unless you’re really going to take advantage of their fantastic chemistry.
The film has some fun action, and really gels in its last act as it finally gets playful and over-the-top in its action (and plays The Lone Ranger musical theme at full blast), but other portions of the film are bogged down by unnecessary and boring expository scenes. The main reason people are excited see this summer movie is to see Johnny Depp hamming it up and having some fun in large action set pieces. It forgets that too often in the film. Depp delivers once again, but one superstar can only do so much. He proves to be the true “lone ranger” of this one.