Pirates of Caribbean team lifts old western TV show to blockbuster level.
Director: Gore Verbinski | Stars: Johnny Depp, Armie Hammer
Budget: 250 million | Box office: July 3
It seems the western genre is attracting wider attention and approval from Hollywood studios. Tarantino‘s Django Unchained became a huge hit and now it‘s time to see if it works as a tentpole summer movie. And who else could better resurrect the interest in the old genre than the guys, who got tremendously successful doing the same thing with pirates. That‘s an interesting story by itself, worth extra mentioning below.
This time producer Jerry Bruckheimer and director Gore Verbinski didn‘t do the work from scratch. They decided to resurrect the fifties and sixties TV show, which was named a first real TV hit of that day. The character itself – ex Texas ranger, fighting for justice in Indian territories, dates back to fourth decade, so the story is really old, but long forgotten.
That gives creators more freedom to explore and basically adjust the new film to billion dollar Pirates of Caribbean structure, with the main attraction point at the front – Johnny Depp. He plays the iconic Indian companion Tonto and even if it‘s easy to dismiss it as just a different version of Sparrow (which is of course what majority viewers want to see and pay for), Tonto‘s origin story, appearances and interactions with the lead hero are quite interesting and fun to watch.
The Lone Ranger itself must have been a tougher call. I think they did a right job casting Armie Hammer, who is not yet famous for some lead hero, but did a tremendous job acting for both twin brothers in The Social Network (here‘s a great featurette about this double role and technology behind it). He really fits the role and counteracts Tonto perfectly.
As an origin story the movie works quite well, there are some nice surprises and touches. I‘m not sure they needed to do the jumps to other time and show the storyteller, but in general it‘s great to see such a story after long absence. It‘s really not hard to guess what will happen, but it kind of wakes up the kid inside you (I hope nowadays children still play cowboys and Indians).
The best thing about the film as with Pirates are the huge set pieces and gorgeous vistas. There are few as breathtaking landscapes as the Wild West planes and mountains, the views are wonderful on the big screen, it‘s worth watching just for that. It has a classic film camera feeling, a bit similar to John Carter. The action sequences as expected are quite long and dynamic, keeping on the edge of the seat. Lots of scenes in trains, which I really like. The only a bit annoying thing was the repeated and eventually final long play of the often abused Rossini‘s Overture to William Tell. It was in the original TV show, but here they could have been more creative.
Despite the little known story, especially outside of the US and lack of connections with franchises or other support, as with Pirates, The Lone Ranger has potential to become a real summer blockbuster which is aimed to be. Johnny Depp is still enough to attract maybe not a billion dollar audience, but at least to double a huge budget, which was actually cut and the main people agreed to lower their salaries to keep the film going. I doubt it will have the same long term interest and excitement as Pirates, but as an origin story and a fun huge western The Lone Ranger really works.