The Lone Ranger: the reviews

From cliched and incoherent to amusing and appealing: here's what the critics are saying about Johnny Depp's new Disney flick

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It doesn’t open in UK cinemas until the beginning of August, but The Lone Ranger, which made its debut in America today, is already failing to hit it off with the critics…

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The film, which stars Johnny Depp, Armie Hammer, William Fitchner and Helena Bonham Carter, hasn’t had a smooth ride to the cinema screen either. While concerns were raised about the portrayal of native Americans in the film and the casting of Johnny Depp as Tonto, production was peppered with financial problems and the project, which is rumoured to have cost £150m, was shut down between shoots in an attempt to cut costs.

Now it’s made it onto the big screen, here’s what film critics across the pond have to say about the tale of law-abiding John Reid and his sidekick Tonto:

New York Times calls The Lone Ranger “a very long, very busy movie that will unite the generations in bafflement, stupefaction and occasional delight” and “a frantic grab bag of plots and themes.” Reviewer O. A. Scott then goes on to say: “In trying to balance grandiosity with playfulness, to lampoon cowboy-and-Indian clichés while taking somber account of a history of violence, greed and exploitation, it descends into nerve-racking incoherence” concluding, rather cuttingly, that ““Who was that masked man?” is a less relevant question than “What on earth were you thinking?”

A nod of agreement comes from Time magazine, who says “it’s got too much on its mind, and it’s unsure of its tone. This is the rough cut of a slimmer, better movie..” This reviewer also notes the film’s confusing feel, saying: “After a while you need a diagram to keep track of the shifting tones: gentle homage or up-to-date political correctness; cannibal violence or the light, smirky touch of the Pirates series. This need to both embrace and ironize so many western clichés sends the project stumbling, until it falls flat on its facetiousness.”

Entertainment Weekly aren’t fans of the film either, stating that “The Lone Ranger, in a virulent case of what seems to be this summer’s reigning blockbuster disease (call it BOSS — Boring Origin Story Syndrome), spends nearly all of its endless running time shuttling from one plot machination to the next.” Before adding that it “delivers too much too late and still manages to make it feel like too little.”

Concerns over the casting of Depp as Tonto seem to have been unfounded though, EW say “[Tonto is] a pop-culture artifact that Depp twists around and makes kind of cool. Depp sets himself up as a scene-stealer, and if the script (by Justin Haythe, Ted Elliott, and Terry Rossio) had given him some great lines, he alone might have made the movie worth seeing.”

Praise (albeit a little half-hearted) for Depp continues over at The Hollywood Reporter. They say “Depp establishes a certain fundamental dignity for Tonto” and even call the film “moderately amusing” with “appealing leads”. Their flattery ends there though, as they conclude that The Lone Ranger is “another Pirates of the Caribbean-scaled series tries to have it too many ways tonally, resulting in a work that wobbles and thrashes all over the place as it attempts to find the right groove.” 

Meanwhile, Variety call the film “extravagant by exhausting”, The Huffington Post‘s reviewer claim it’s “one of the oddest movies I have ever seen” and HitFix brand it “a terrible film by any standards.”

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The Lone Ranger is in UK cinemas 9 August. Watch the trailer here.