Featured Blu-ray / DVD Review: The Lone Ranger

The Lone Ranger - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-ray Combo Pack

Before The Lone Ranger even hit theaters, there was a lot of bad buzz preceding it. Part of the reason was the film's budget. With a combined production and P&A budget of around $400 million, the film would need to make more than $600 million worldwide to have a hope of breaking even sometime during its home market run. However, previous to this film's release, the biggest western was Dances with Wolves, which barely cracked $400 million. On the other hand, Johnny Depp and Gore Verbinski helped revitalize the Pirate genre, so perhaps lightning can strike twice. Nope. The film bombed. But is it as bad as its box office numbers? Or was it unfairly overlooked by moviegoers?

The Movie

The film begins many, many years after the adventures of the Lone Ranger. We see a young boy in a Lone Ranger outfit at a carnival. One of the exhibitions is a Wild West show. Among the exhibits are a bison, a bear, and an elderly Tonto. At first Tonto mistakes the young boy for the real Lone Ranger. He then begins to tell the story of the Lone Ranger.

Back in 1869, the railway came to a small Texas town of Colby. The train is to bring prosperity to the town, peace to the Comanche, and justice to the wild west. The last part is coming in the form of Butch Cavendish, a notorious killer and cannibal, who is being brought to town to be hanged for his crimes. Dan Reid, the leader of a local group of Texas Rangers, is waiting to take Butch to where he will be executed. However, he's more worried about one of the other passengers on that train, his brother John. John is a city folk who is not fit for the wild west. From what little we see of John, Dan's worries seem well placed.

Also on that train is Tonto, who is chained up right beside Cavendish. So when Cavendish's men bust him out of the train, Tonto is able to gain the upper hand and nearly kill Cavendish. (Tonto and Cavendish have a history, although Cavendish, and the audience, don't know what that history is.) He would have killed Cavendish, but John stepped in. John is the district attorney and doesn't allow Tonto to shoot Cavendish in cold blood. However, while John is being self-righteous, Cavendish's men step in. While Cavendish and his men get away, Dan is able to save his brother and Tonto, as well as the passengers on the train.

When Dan rides off with the Rangers to get Cavendish, John insists on riding with him, to make sure justice is served and this isn't a ride for vengeance. After tracking Cavendish, Dan and the Rangers are led into an ambush and all are killed, including John, sort of. Tonto arrives upon the scene after the carnage and proceeds to bury the dead. John isn't quite dead yet and when a white horse arrives, Tonto thinks it is a spirit horse, a spirit horse that has chosen John to be a great warrior. Tonto tries to convince the horse to chose Dan instead, but to no avail.

After John wakes up, Tonto explains to John what the Spirit Horse said to him. John is a spirit walker, someone who has been to the other side, someone who can't be killed in battle. Cavendish is an evil spirit, a Windigo, which causes chaos where ever he travels. Tonto had melted down the Rangers' badges to make a silver bullet, which will be needed to kill him. At first John has no interest in what Tonto has to say, until Tonto points out Cavendish had help escaping and that one of the men who rode with the Rangers betrayed them.

With that John and Tonto ride.

This movie is a mess. There are so many things wrong with it, it is hard to know where to start. Let's start at the beginning. Early on there are a few scenes that I think are meant to be funny, but just really aren't. It's the kind of failed humor where as you watch you know there's supposed to be a joke somewhere there, but you can't see it. I was really hoping that the humor would either get better or just stop, but that wasn't the case. There's a poop joke that takes place after the massacre of the Rangers, which is a really big change in tone. What adult is going to laugh at that joke?

Additionally, the plot is both weak and overstuffed. The plot is full of Western clichés including the city boy not prepared for the wild west and of course the a corrupt railway baron. There's nothing new here that we haven't seen countless times before. However, while there's nothing new, the plot has been stuffed with way too many elements. It's an origin story for the two main leads, so we need to see John Reid pre-Lone Ranger, we need to see what made Tonto who he is and why they became a team. The problem is, the two lead characters are not strong enough to carry the film. John Reid starts out as this idealistic "justice above all" person, which is good for a Lone Ranger, but bad for a hero. It's close to two hours into the movie before he realizes he needs to be the Lone Ranger and we finally have a titular hero. It would have been better to start the film with the Long Ranger being who he is and a flashback or two showing the corruption and oppression that made him wear the mask in the first place. There are too many villains in the movie, and too many side characters, so none of them are developed well enough to really be compelling.

On the positive side, there are some really good action scenes, especially the climactic fight aboard the two trains. I think most people watching the movie will cease caring about it long before they get to that action scene, but is it has a lot of energy.

The Extras

The only extra on the DVD is a gag reel. The Blu-ray has one deleted scene plus three featurettes. The longest is Armie's Western Road Trip, which is a 15-minute look at the locations used in the filming of this movie. Becoming a Cowboy is an 8-minute look at the training the actors had to go through to learn how to be a cowboy. And finally, Riding the Rails of The Lone Ranger looks at how they made the five massive railway sets. That's a lot more than the DVD, but still not enough to be a selling point.

The film cost $275 million to make, and you can tell. The film looks damn near perfect, if you take into consideration aesthetic choices. The colors are not as vivid as with most films, because the filmmakers wanted to make the movie look more period than modern. The audio is even better than the video with an incredible 7.1 surround sound track that has everything you want from a summer blockbuster. There is a ton of activity in the surround sound speakers, especially the bass, with stunning dynamic effects.

The Blu-ray costs $23, which is $5 or 28% more than the DVD. Given the extra special features and the upgrade in technical presentation, this is a good deal.

The Verdict

The Lone Ranger is not the worst big-budget action movie I've seen this year. I think that dishonor goes to A Good Day to Die Hard. (Granted, I never got a chance to see After Earth, and I hear that film is even worse than Die Hard 5.) That said, "Not the worst..." is a far cry from worth checking out. There are a few good action scenes strung together by a predictable and bloated plot. The DVD has nowhere near enough extras to be worth buying. And even though the Blu-ray Combo Pack has more extras and stunning audio and video, it still isn't worth picking up.


- Submitted by: C.S.Strowbridge


Date posted: 2013-12-15