The masked hero known as the Lone Ranger and his First Nations companion, Tonto, have been popular icons in American culture for 80 years, appearing in radio, television, movies and comic books. The Lone Ranger hadn’t been adapted for the big screen since the early 1980’s, so Hollywood decided the time had come for a new generation of kids to learn why their grandpa still yells “Hi-ho Silver, away!” every time he hears the “William Tell Overture”.
Today, Walt Disney Pictures — along with the creative minds behind Rango and the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise — are releasing an ambitious reboot of the masked lawman’s adventures. This retelling will likely be a memory-jog for nostalgic adults, but perhaps a little too long and violent for young children.
The film starts in 1933 San Francisco, where a young boy meets an aged Tonto (Johnny Depp) on the set of a Wild West carnival exhibit. Tonto begins to tell the boy about his adventures with “Kimosabe” and, through his recollections, the audience is transferred back in time to witness the adventure unfold firsthand.
Set during the time of the construction of the Transcontinental Railroad, John Reid (Armie Hammer), a district attorney with a strong belief in civilized justice, is helping his brother, Sheriff Dan (James Badge Dale), locate the murdering fiend Butch Cavendish (William Fichtner). When the group is ambushed by Butch and his band of outlaws, John is left for dead after having witnessed Butch brutally kill his brother. John is rescued and revived by Tonto, who believes that John is a “spirit warrior” who cannot be killed. Donning a black mask, John vows to go after Butch in order to uphold justice and is accompanied on his quest by Tonto, who wishes to exact vengeance on Butch for slaughtering his tribe when he was a boy.
Meanwhile, Sheriff Dan’s wife Rebecca (Ruth Wilson), whom John secretly loves, is kidnapped — along with her son and the greedy railroad tycoon, Latham Cole (Tom Wilkinson). The adventure becomes an Old West rescue mission as the Lone Ranger and Tonto fight, chase, blow-up and outsmart any outlaw who crosses their path.
What we loved
The Lone Ranger has moments that prevent it from being an appropriate family movie, but there are still elements that kids can find enjoyable.
It’s impossible for Johnny Depp to play a character that doesn’t completely steal the show. His portrayal of Tonto is witty, animated and enjoyable to watch — kids will love his tendency to continuously feed seeds to the stuffed bird perched on top of his head. The only other onscreen presence that can rival Tonto’s hilarity comes in the form of an animal: Silver, the “white spirit horse” with an eccentric personality. Silver’s proclivity for continuously saving John Reid and Tonto’s lives makes him the source of the film’s biggest laughs.
Fans of the original films and of director Gore Verbinski’s previous features will expect at least one big sensational action scene. Even though the audience has to wait until the last 20 minutes to see it, the action sequence at the end of The Lone Ranger does not disappoint. The third act has the heroes jumping between two speeding locomotives, Silver racing on top of buildings and moving trains, and some pretty spectacular CGI shots. Of course, when the action is accompanied by The Lone Ranger theme song (the “William Tell Overture”), you know it’s impossible for anything bad to happen to John and Tonto — leaving you free to sit back and enjoy the ride.
Parents should be advised that throughout the film there are numerous scenes of violence and death that may frighten or alarm children under the age of 13. During one distressing scene, the Lone Ranger’s brother, Dan, is shot by Butch Cavendish, who then proceeds to cut out Dan’s heart with a knife and eat it. Other scenes include the massacres of two separate First Nations tribes, a bunch of vicious vampire rabbits and Butch receiving a bloody nose from the Lone Ranger himself.
In addition to the violence, the complex plot might be difficult for younger viewers to follow. The film also has a 150-minute run time, so younger children may find it hard to sit through the entire movie.
PG — Parental guidance is suggested.
Although Johnny Depp delivers a memorable performance as Tonto — and a few good gags and action scenes will engage viewers — the films length, complex plot and violent content makes The Lone Ranger inappropriate for young children under the age of 13.