Ray Pride is Newcity film critic and a contributing editor of Filmmaker magazine. He is also a photographer: his history of Chicago “Ghost Signs” in words and images is forthcoming. Previews on Twitter (twitter.com/chighostsigns) as well as daily photography on Instagram: instagram.com/raypride. Twitter: twitter.com/RayPride. (Photo: Jorge Colombo.)
“The Lone Ranger” lifts lots of “Pirates” play, and Johnny Depp’s Tonto draws many a tic from his four turns in that franchise: now he’s Jack Sparrow wearing a dead crow as headgear. Director Gore Verbinski says he revised the saga of the lawman known as The Lone Ranger (Armie Hammer) and the Comanche called Tonto, to be just like Cervantes’ tale of the wandering of Don Quixote and Sancho Panza. And this Ranger is indeed a delusional idealist. Instead of romance novels, upholding John Locke’s “Two Treatises on Civil Government” is his “bible.” The other “Pirates of the Caribbean” mainstays, writing duo Ted Elliott and Terry Rossio, leap from eighteenth-century seas to 1869 Texas, with key geographical cheats to lasso the iconic scenery of Monument Valley alongside transcontinental rail history in the Utah Territory. (New to the team is co-screenwriter Justin Haythe.) While long lost to pop culture, this adaptation of the Western radio-novel-comic-serial-TV franchise preserves many particulars, particularly the signature “William Tell Overture” by Rossini, tricked up for a galloping entrance at an especially choice point. Tonto is a complicated nutcase, yet a realist acknowledging his companion as a “stupid white man.” Unscrupulous capitalist scheming over locomotives and silver lodes supply action spectacles—with extensive Buster Keaton copying—when the contrarian duo is not working out their personal stuff, including, but not limited to the Lone Ranger’s unlikely campaign against extrajudicial executions and Tonto’s guilt issues linked to a busted watch and a slaughtered tribe. The cinematography is as wide and wild as the West itself. The narrational frame is acceptably cute: in 1933, the year the original radio show began, a boy wearing a Lone Ranger outfit wanders through an amusement arcade and finds the aged Tonto posing in a diorama titled “The Noble Savage.” The wide-eyed fan and fact-checker gets an illustrated oral history that spans years, as well as one-hundred-forty-nine minutes. With Tom Wilkinson, William Fichtner, Barry Pepper, James Badge Dale, Ruth Wilson, Helena Bonham Carter. 149m. (Bill Stamets)
“The Lone Ranger” is now hi-yo-ing.