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Badger & Vole Review: The Lone Ranger
B: Let’s just get this out up front. If you loved Captain Jack Sparrow and you’re sad that they’re not making any more Pirates of the Caribbean movies, this is the one for you. If not...
V: It’s a big mess.
B: My son took his girlfriend to see it. She loved it, because she thinks Johnny Depp is wonderful in everything he does. My son calls him “Johnny Derp.” But as long as sitting through a movie starring him made the girlfriend happy...
V: Men do amazing things to please their women.
V: I did notice that the audience trended much older than the audience at most movies I see. Not surprising, given that this one is going to have strongest name recognition with aging Baby Boomers who grew up watching the old TV series with Clayton Moore and Jay Silverheels.
B: Is that even on anymore, anywhere? Even in the deepest vaults of the recycled reruns cable channels?
V: I don’t think so. But whenever a property like this gets unearthed and made into a movie, I have to wonder: are they venerating their sacred cow or grinding it into burgers?
B: I’m going with “grinding it into burgers.” I think this was a movie made by people who deep down hate the Lone Ranger and grew up wanting to do horrible things to him.
V: That certainly would explain why most of the heavy lifting was done by Tonto. I really do get tired of the “hero as bumbling fool who is saved by his noble sidekick” shtick.
B: That worked for Don Quixote. But this is no Don Quixote.
V: It’s not even a Wild Wild West.
B: Just had to bring that one up, didn’t you?
V: I mean, can you imagine going to a Batman movie and having Robin save the day?
B: Only if it’s the blond girl Robin that Frank Miller wrote into The Dark Knight Returns.
V: Good point.
B: So, we really don’t have the time to catalog this movie’s failings. It’s confused about time: it’s supposedly set in 1869 but abounds in anachronisms. 1860s, 1890s, whatever. It’s confused about place: I’m not all that familiar with western Texas, but I do know Monument Valley, Utah, when I see it.
V: And where did they come up with the idea that a businessman can just shoot the Chairman of the Board in the back and get away with it?
B: It’s Texas. Happens all the time there, didn’t you know? Never go to a business meeting in Texas unless you’re packing.
V: That whole extended, extravagant, ridiculous scene with Helena Bonham Carter, just to deliver a piece of information that could have been done in about 30 seconds in a well-written script.
B: It’s good to be the producer’s wife.
V: This mythical “Transcontinental Railroad Corporation” that’s the real force behind all the evil in the film, for those who miss the evil “East India Company” of Pirates. Ironic how Disney keeps making movies that depict enormous corporations as irredeemably evil.
B: And what is this obsession with the Golden Spike—which I happen to know was driven in Promontory Point, Utah, not “Promontory Summit, Texas.” I’m telling you, what this movie needed was a giant mechanical spider.
V: It couldn’t have made it worse. Well, not much worse.
B: They’re not content to make Butch Cavendish a thief, cutthroat, and murderer. He’s now a cannibal. (And hey, wasn’t he in Judge Dredd, with exactly the same makeup?)
V: What kind of an idiot rides off to arrest someone like Butch Cavendish and says, “I don’t believe in guns” just before riding into prime ambush territory?
B: A short-lived one.
Okay, I have one for you. Maybe only a musician would notice this, but the bit of music everyone knows as “The Lone Ranger Theme” is an excerpt from Rossini’s William Tell Overture. It’s actually the fourth movement, “The March of the Swiss Soldiers,” which is about two-and-a-half, three minutes long.
V: They had to do some very serious looping to make it long enough to cover the grand finale of this movie.
B: Good, you caught it. Yes, any time you have to loop the music at least three times to make it long enough to cover your big action finale, your big action finale is too damned long.
V: It was perfect for the Lone Ranger lassoing the Gatling gun and charging off after the runaway train, but after that—
B: Speaking of that runaway train, am I the only one who watched it and thought of the “Big Thunder Mountain Railroad” roller-coaster? Is every movie Disney makes based on a damned Disneyland theme-park ride?
V: I never would have made that connection.
Okay, I have one for you. There was one thing they could have added right at the end of the movie that would have mitigated a lot of my disappointment. It would have been a gimmick, but I would have liked it.
V: Right after Tonto disappeared from the carnival show, it would have been fun if the kid’s mother showed up, frantic from hours of searching for him.
B: That was a goofy framing device, wasn’t it?
V: And said, “There you are, Britt Reid! I’ve been looking for you for hours!”
V: Britt Reid is better known as The Green Hornet, and in the radio serial continuity he’s the great-nephew of Dan Reid, the Lone Ranger.
B: Ah. Your Geek Fu is truly astounding. I yield.
V: So, does that about wrap it up for this one?
B: Not quite. There is the little matter of this.
V: A ping-pong ball?
B: Not merely a ping-pong ball. An official Disney John Carter ping-pong ball.
V: Why is it green on one side?
B: I’ve been using it as a float in my rain gauge.
The point is, I was at a con where the Disney promotion people were promoting John Carter—an excellent swords-and-planets sci-fi adventure movie, by the way, and if you haven’t seen it yet, you should—
The Disney people were promoting John Carter by handing out official John Carter ping-pong balls. And official John Carter red Solo cups. And they were trying to drum up enthusiasm for the movie by getting people to play beer pong for movie merchandise.
B: As opposed to The Lone Ranger, which probably had a promo budget of $120 mill. The media buys alone—
V: Three words. “Starring Johnny Depp.”
B: And that’s really the long and short of it, isn’t it? If you love Johnny Depp and think he can do no wrong, The Lone Ranger is the movie for you. If not, go see Despicable Me 2, which is my pick for Best Movie of the Summer.
V: And join us next week, when we’ll be reviewing Guillermo del Toro's awesome new sci-fi action picture, Pacific Rim!
B: You mean Voltron Meets Godzilla?
V: Hey. Don’t diss Voltron. I made good money off Voltron. Each one of those Voltron comics I scripted sold more copies than all my other titles combined.
B: But—it’s Voltron!
V: Oh? Then shall we start a conversation about... Wild Wild West?
B: Ouch! No fair!
Badger was once an award-winning SF novelist, until his involvement with a legendary multimillion-dollar Hollywood bomb destroyed his writing career. Vole was once a million-copy-selling comic-book writer, and he still thinks the “lion” version of Voltron is pretty darn cool.
Today, they’re just two old guys who like to watch movies, eat popcorn, and kvetch. Oh boy, do they kvetch. And despite his mild-mannered appearance, Vole will always be known around here as the man who wrote the brilliantly funny but hopelessly unpublishable comic-book script, "Bruce Wayne's and Lex Luthor's Ex-Girlfriends Meet and Compare Notes," which introduced the now legendary "Crotchless Batgirl Costume."