The dual-review film criticism site: first a spoiler-free review, then an in-depth Alternate Take.
The Lone Ranger

Written by Matt Denny and Owen Weetch.

Photo from the article The Lone Ranger was released last year and the general consensus is that it’s a grand turkey, and proof that people don’t bother to go en masse see either Johnny Depp or Westerns anymore (Rango got by, but then that had animals for the kiddies and you couldn’t tell that Depp’d aged if you were only going from his voice). I even read yesterday that it has been blamed, albeit tangentially, for killing off the romantic comedy. The writer blames it in a roundabout way, yes, but it’s still indicative of the myriad ways in which the movie’s popularly understood as a massive cluck up.

The thing is, the film is actually a fascinating and interrogative piece of historically revisionist filmmaking. It’s not half as dry or an academic an exercise as that sentence suggests either. It’s actually filled with knockabout slapstick set-pieces - imagine something tonally akin to what would happen should Buster Keaton and Wile E. Coyote decide to play zorb football on the top of a moving train - and comically astute performances. It’s also filled to the brim with the most delightfully off-kilter oddness that the ever-reliable oddball Gore Verbinski has yet managed to inflict upon an admittedly small multiplex audience. This is one of the strongest revisionist westerns to have come out Hollywood, and it’s certainly amongst its strangest.

Soon after the initial reviews manifested themselves, there was much in the way of obligatory reassessment. In my initial review I praised the film to high heaven, and then found it difficult to say anything more on the subject. I had already written what was basically an Apologist Take the year previously for John Carter, and I didn’t feel the need (not to mention possess the resolve) to methodically cry over spilt milk again. This, then, accounts for what is probably this site’s most delayed Alternate Take, not to mention its least orthodox.

Over the coming weeks, the site will be hosting a series of articles on blockbuster cinema held dear by its contributors. One of the blockbusters to be discussed, by co-editor Matt Denny, will be The Lone Ranger. He also enjoyed the film, and he and I have had many conversations over the past year about what we perceive to be the film’s strengths. We didn’t quite know how to go about condensing these myriad topics into one article, however, so decided on a more unconventional approach - which we both feel is decidedly fitting for such a ragamuffin movie.

So Matt will write a piece on the film as a blockbuster, and what that term means to him, which you’ll be able to read in the coming weeks. We also recorded an audio commentary for the film, which gave us the opportunity to critically engage with the film on its own terms and to laud its virtues as they occur. There’s always the issue with film criticism and scholarship that they often take place in a different medium to that which is being critiqued, so we thought this would be an interesting way of engaging with that problem. Recording an audio commentary also, more selfishly, gave us the opportunity to watch the thing again. The audio file below consists of an informal discussion about the film’s merits and faults, as well as offering up points of reflection that we hope you’ll enjoy.

So, if you fancy watching The Lone Ranger again, and if you’d like to consider your own thoughts on the movie alongside a critical conversation while also watching Jonny Depp play a Native American who at one point threatens to violate a mercenary with a deceased duck’s foot, then follow this link.

This Alternate Take was published on July 22, 2014.

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