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The Lone Ranger: A $250 Million Runaway Train

July 8, 2013

The Lone Ranger movie poster

The Lone Ranger was  slightly better than expected. I was thinking I was in for another Pirates 4/Dark Shadows/Tourist debacle in which copious amounts of money was spent and little is good. However, it is such an odd film full of violence, smart horses and surreal moments that it stands out amongst the traditional summer fare.  The movie seemed destined to be a disaster with egos running high and bank accounts being emptied. The production suffered with inclement weather, chicken pox, wildfires and Verbinski, Depp and Hammer deferring 20% of their salary to keep the film on budget. It became a massively expensive machine headed to John Carter land. After the first weekend it isn’t looking good for the iconic outlaw. With a $50 million domestic haul it will be a miracle if it crosses $100 million.

The $250 million dollar price tag disturbed me from the beginning. Do you need that much money to tell the story of a lone ranger? The production budget of Verbinski/Depp’s Pirate of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl was $140 million and it was loaded with sea battles, CGI and wonderful characters. Audiences loved it and it featured one of the best character introductions in recent memory. Watching Captain Jack Sparrow correctly gauge his sinking ships arrival at port demonstrated intelligence, insanity and luck which were defining traits for Sparrow. I’d argue that as the next three Pirates films budgets grew (225, 300, 250 million) the worse they became. There was too much money, too many egos and character creativity was lost amongst krakens, battles, bonnets and rum.  The Lone Ranger is a product of excess and it faltered because of that.

The Long Ranger is massive, violent and odd. The director Gore Verbinski infused the film with heart eating, severed fingers and moments ripped off from the Pirates series. Gore and Depp originally wanted $260 million for the film but had to cut it down to $215 but THEN it went past $250 because Gore wanted his own trains built and sand storms straight out of The Mummy ravaged sets.


The finished product is a 150 minute mixture of cannibalism, cross dressing and Barry Pepper’s mustache. The movie wants to be Rango and Pirates but in the end it feels too bloated and convoluted to be a hit. There are moments of surreal brilliance but those moments are dwarfed by the sheer size of the film. The little moments and neat shots make this film worth the eventual rental or TNT viewing.  There are fantastic shots involving Depp on a ladder, doing shadow puppets and staring quizzically at lawmen who leave him underneath a moving train.

The plot revolves around Depp and Hammer battling evil rich guys who want to collect silver and own all the continental railways. Of course, the bad guys kidnap the love interest (Ruth Wilson who is much better in Luther), wipe out many Native Americans and thankfully do not have mechanical spider legs (Wild Wild West) or turn out to be aliens (Cowboys & Aliens). It all leads to a final duel aboard two moving trains that is a fun blast of violence, creative usage of ladders and the William Tell Overture.

The Lone Ranger is a product of excess. I wish it would have spent more time with Hammer and Depp and less on making things look expensive. If a sequel is somehow made I hope they scale the action down and make more room for character. I’d like to see these two again.

The lone ranger




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