Yesterday was July 4th, and I found it or that while I was standing in the middle of the Magic Kingdom that my only goal was to head over to Pecos Bill Tall Tale Inn and Cafe and get myself a root beer slush. Admittedly it was a fairly hot day, but that wasn’t why I was getting the drink. What I wanted was the mug that it came in, shaped like a boot, and stamped with the logo for the newly released Disney film The Lone Ranger and the image of a Texas Ranger badge. For the longest time, I’ve been a fan of the character, and his history. As a child I had a spray-painted silver bullet on my desk, had made myself my own Halloween costume (that got worn more often), and was even a Texas Rangers fan. So I’ll just apologize upfront if this seems biased.
The legend of the Lone Ranger goes back to a 1933 radio show which was one of the most popular of all time. It has since gone on to produce a highly successful television program, a series of books, comic books, other movie treatments, merchandising, etc. It’s safe to say that for 80 years this character has never not made money in some capacity. And in 2007 the Weinstein brothers, after having left Disney, found themselves planning to buy the rights to the Lone Ranger for use in the home video market – only to see the company that was selling it to them snatched up by Dreamworks before this could happen.
Eventually, with the help of Jerry Bruckheimer, the movie was set up at Disney. The first script treatment had had an extreme supernatural overtone, trying to play off the Pirates of the Caribbean movies. I’m not kidding, there were werewolves. Elements of this original script were brought forward into the final product and can be found very obviously imbued into nature of the characters of Tonto and Butch Cavendish primarily, and to a lesser extent that of the main character John Reid. In 2010, after the idea was on the verge of being scrapped, Gore Verbinski steps into the picture, and production kicked into high gear. While Johnny Depp had been signed to the project back in 2008, they needed their Ranger, and Armie Hammer was signed to do so.
In my time as a fan I’ve read, watched, or listened to more than a dozen different version of the origin story of the Lone Ranger, and I have to say that this movie, The Lone Ranger, is a very fresh adaptation. If you look closely it has so much of what has been brought before in it. The Ranger is the lawman seeking justice, more literally as a lawyer. Tonto is still the guide, taking a more spiritual bent. And Butch Cavendish is as vile, rotten, and disgusting as he should be, adding a new bent that wasn’t too hard to… swallow (do you see what I did there). A few of the twists in the movie are nicely done, especially the reveal – which is only lightly telegraphed. There are still mines of silver and even nephew Dan as a future sidekick is alluded to.
For 22 (or more) minutes of the film I was on the verge of tears. Why? Because on the screen is something I feel no filmed treatment has gotten right since the television series use of the William Tell Overture. The full treatment, overlaid on the end game of the movie is one of the most enjoyable on screen moments I’ve experienced. The timing of every note to the action, movement, and feeling of the moment rounded this movie out fully and really brought it home for me. It said to me, “Yes, this is the Lone Ranger.”
Right now you’re seeing a lot of negative criticism about the movie, but really audience reviews of the movie are great. Try to ignore the professional critics and go watch this movie and make your own decision about it. There are some gruesome moments in the movie, that if you’re bringing your children you may get questions about. Up front, I’ll warn you that Westerns aren’t for everyone, but we seldom get good ones that have the right feel to them anymore. This however is one. And if you’re a fan of the genre I feel you’re going to enjoy it.
In addition to doing the web designer and programming for the On the Go in MCO website, Todd Perlmutter is a host for the Disney Film Project Podcast. You can join him and his fellow hosts for a Live Review of The Lone Ranger on Thursday, July 18, 2013.Follow us for more updates: