In our regular polarising-opinion series, Total Film writer Paul Bradshaw asks, ‘Is it just me? … or was The Lone Ranger the best movie of last summer?
Waterworld. Cutthroat Island. John Carter. All more successful than last summer’s $250m runaway train, The Lone Ranger .
Worse still, everyone knew it was going to flop before it even came out. Plagued with production problems, director Gore Verbinski’s Saturday matinée was shut down when a spiralling budget saw it run out of money in the middle of the desert. Nothing sets a critic’s keyboard clicking like rumours of gross overspending – and Disney’s leaky cash cow couldn’t have had a bigger target carved into its backside.
“I think the reviews were written eight months ago,” said a grim-faced Johnny Depp during the miserable press tour last August, with the verdict of the New York Post hanging heavy over everyone ’s head: “a bloated, misshapen, stillborn mess”. Except it wasn’t. Standing out amongst a slew of sequels and button-mashing FX clones, The Lone Ranger was the only one of last year’s crop that understood what the summer is all about.
Beautifully shot, endlessly enjoyable and bursting with popcorn action, it borrowed the best of Raiders Of The Lost Ark, Stagecoach and Pirates Of The Caribbean to craft an old-fashioned adventure that made the western fun again. It might have caught flak for its all-inclusive tone and kiddie-unfriendly running time, but this was a film designed to dominate big screens and entire afternoons.
What’s more, it has a fab finale, with Depp (at his Buster Keaton best) fighting baddies, jumping horses and climbing ladders aboard two speeding trains. Ignore the reviews and it’s impossible to watch it without a grin forming. But what about the rest?
The Lone Ranger was hemmed in by a dozen other tentpoles titles that didn’t come close to besting it. World War Z failed to hammer an indie genre into blockbuster shape, Olympus Has Fallen and White House Down quickly cancelled each other out and the only people who weren’t disappointed by Elysium were the only people who haven’t seen District 9. The Wolverine was ruined by a robo-suit, Star Trek Into Darkness was painted by numbers and Fast & Furious 6 was hardly more than another disc in the boxset. Which brings us to the big three.
Anyone who calls The Lone Ranger big and dumb should re-watch Pacific Rim : less a film than a multi-market screensaver that stung like a late-night Xbox marathon. Likewise Man Of Steel was too much, too soon; glazing eyes with joypad direction and CGI overkill. Iron Man 3 did a good job with the franchise, but as Marvel’s supers enter their third and fourth sequels, apathy is starting to creep in – or maybe it should.
The Lone Ranger cost a stupid amount of money but at least you can tell, from the real sets to the jumping from real trains; there’s an obvious difference between watching Johnny Depp ride a horse through Monument Valley and seeing Russell Crowe ride a cartoon dragon through an exploding volcano. It might have tanked at the box office but it deserved more respect than the competition.
Or is it just me?