Armie Hammer and Johnny Depp in The Lone Ranger via. Nerdist.com
After reconciling the with myself the fact that I was indeed going to see The Lone Ranger at some point this weekend, I started reading Isabel Allende’s Zorro to remind myself that my love of masked vigilantes in what would become the American West don’t always have to come with a racist Johnny Depp-shaped kiddie meal toy.
I’d apologize to Disney for cheating my way into seeing The Lone Ranger*, but the movie isn’t worth it. It’s a two and a half hour slog that shines only in the final twenty minutes where you finally catch a glimpse of what the film –written by the team behind Aladdin, The Mask of Zorro, Pirates of the Caribbean and others– could have been. Unfortunately the film’s failings manage to go beyond Tonto’s white-washing. If you’re going to make something so incredibly racist that garners this level of backlash months before the final cut, at least have the decency to make it good.
But as a fan of the “American Outlaw” trope, this Ranger is only the latest disappointment. I’ll watch anything about The Lone Ranger, Jesse James, John Dillinger, Billy the Kid, and other (supposed) justice-seeking Robin Hood vigilante types, fictional or not. The whitening and brightening of these stories (figuratively and literally) is nothing new; there’s a long history in the genre of shaving down the truth to make these stories more palatable for the general (read: white) American audience. In The Lone Ranger it didn’t even only just apply to Johnny Depp as Tonto. Everyone involved manages to hit on a unique combination of blatant racism, missed opportunities, and straight-up bad filmmaking that makes The Lone Ranger the worst movie I’ve seen so far this year.