Regardless of one’s opinion of it, last year’s The Lone Ranger was one of the biggest flops of the year. It was torn apart by everyone and their mother. I finally saw it recently and… I actually really liked it. Though you probably surmised that by the title…

So what exactly brings someone to see a movie when they know it has a terrible reputation? To be honest, part of it was the reputation. I’ll delve more into this later, but I really got the vide that people hated this movie because they wanted to hate it. The few positive reviews I read – from the likes of Quentin Tarantino and your friend and mine Big Black Hat Man – lead me to believe that there was more to the movie than everyone was letting on. However, it wasn’t high on my list of priorities. There was always that nagging thought “What if the haters are right?” For as long as I can remember, my Netflix queue has been a mile long. And this matter was complicated further by my decision to finally rent Game of Thrones – which I had to do one. Disc. At. A. Time. So for me, it was one of those things where I wanted to see it… I just wasn’t in any rush. I figured if it popped up on a movie channel or Netflix streaming, I’d give it a shot.

Oddly enough, one other reason I really wanted to see the movie was that I bought and played the Lone Ranger game that is available for Disney Infinity. I bought that because I was able to exchange some DVDs, thus buying the game for only $7 (it normally sells for $35 new) and because I heard the game was fun. (And don’t let brand loyalty fool you. I bought the Toy Story game and – good God – that game is boring!) That proved to be true as The Lone Ranger proved to be one of the most fun Disney Infinity games. The only downside is that it’s criminally short. But I have to get this off my chest: Why was there a Lone Ranger game but not a Frozen or Wreck-it-Ralph game? Yeah, I know Disney thought The Lone Ranger was going to be a big e-ticket of the summer, but what did they think Frozen was going to be? And a Wreck-it-Ralph game would have made itself! Oh well, back to the actual review: I got my wish when The Lone Ranger aired on Encore recently and…

Okay, I’ll start with what everyone wants me to talk about. Even though I’m defending this movie, I’ll admit it’s not perfect. First of all, there’s the length. You’ll get no argument from me that if this movie were cut by 15-30 minutes, it would be a stronger film. Realistically, this is an issue I have with a lot of modern blockbusters. I don’t know where we developed this vanity that every blockbuster needs to be two-and-a-half hours. Even good movies like the Nolan Batman films have fallen prey to this. I praised the recent Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie for actually being under 2 hours. Though in the same vein, how long a movie runs is significantly less important than how long a movie FEELS. I mentioned the Nolan Batman films as being over two-and-a-half hours each, but they don’t feel too long… for the most part. I’ll even defend Man of Steel for having a breezy pace despite its length.

However, The Lone Ranger does NOT wear its length well. I’m glad I saw this movie in the comfort of my home because if I saw this movie in theaters, I probably would have been checking my watch and noticing how much my tuchus hurt. I mentioned Tarantino being a fan of this film, and he brought up a legit criticism. He thought that splitting the bad guys into two groups was a bad idea and artificially inflated this movie’s length. Hard to argue with that one…

I’ll also concede that I do not like the way this movie zigzags between tones. With a movie like this, one would expect a silly lighthearted action adventure romp with a serious moment thrown in here and there. When the movie does have a flippant, fun tone, it works. However, when the movie tries to be serious, I think they went a little too far. There’s a scene where Butch Cavendish cuts out somebody’s heart and eats it. Yeah, this happens off camera, but we know what happened. (One character even tosses his cookies on camera.) For crying out loud, Heath Ledger’s Joker never did anything that graphic! I think murdering someone in cold blood would have gotten the message across that this was one bad dude. There’s also a scene involving Tonto’s horse going number two that I could have lived without. My mother actually defended this scene. But my mother’s a nurse so her definition of gross and my definition of gross are probably a little different.

So what did I like about this movie? What have I seen that most people haven’t? Like I said before, when this movie is being silly and goofy and fun, it works. This movie has some seriously impressive action scenes. Most people – even some of the harsher critics – agree that the climatic train scene is pretty impressive. Admittedly, this is one of the most spectacular action scenes I’ve seen in a while – mixing impressive stunt work with silent film era-style creativity. But there are other good scenes – such as… the opening train scene. As he demonstrated in Pirates of the Caribbean, Gore Verbinski does have a knack for directing action scenes.

One thing that may be hard to argue with some people about is that this movie did make me laugh quite a bit. I say it’s hard to argue because as Gene Siskel once said “I can’t argue you into laughing, you can’t argue me out of laughing.” I also like this movie’s ability to show instead of tell. There’s a great scene where Red Harrington tells the Ranger to get revenge on Cavendish for what he took from her. We’ve already established she has a missing leg, but that line is juxtaposed with a picture of Harrington as a former ballerina. I enjoy touches like that.

Also, I do like the two leads. Now I like and respect the Cinema Snob a lot, but I have to take one of his criticisms to task. He said he didn’t like the way John Reid started out as kind of a wimp. I see where he’s coming from, but I enjoyed watching the character grow. He starts out as someone who WANTS to be good, but he’s not equipped with the skills to be a great hero. He has to live in the shadow of his more successful brother and has to earn the trust of Tonto. After all, Batman Begins shows Bruce Wayne starting out as someone who wants to violently murder the man who killed his parents. Showing how characters grow is a good thing.

Alas, I must address one of the elephants in the room: Tonto. I’m not going to delve into the controversy of Johnny Depp playing an American Indian. I’m simply not qualified to make that kind of judgment. But I can comment on his performance. I have to say, that for someone who’s been getting a lot of flack lately, I’m still a pretty big fan of Johnny Depp. I don’t know whether he still bases his acting choices on what his kids want, but I will admit he could be making better choices with his acting career. It’s odd that Depp made his best films BEFORE he became one of the biggest stars in the world. People have criticized Depp’s performance as usual. They say it’s the same crazy performance he’s given in films like Alice in Wonderland and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. While Depp’s Tonto is very eccentric, Depp plays the character very deadpan. Yeah, deadpan is pretty far away from the exaggerated cartoonish performances of the aforementioned films.

The other big criticism about Depp’s Tonto is that it’s more his film than the Lone Ranger’s. Is this criticism valid? Yes and no. Yes, Tonto has more screen time than the eponymous hero. But at the same time, the film is structured in a way that it still feels like the Lone Ranger’s story. I once saw an article that listed sidekicks that were cooler than the heroes, and Tonto was one of the features of that list. I’d say something like that might make a flimsy argument that Tonto could have more screen time than the Lone Ranger, but realistically, I think they just wanted an excuse to give the A-list actor more screen time. My opinion on this matter may be tainted by the fact that I saw Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles BEFORE I saw this. If The Lone Ranger at least felt like it was still the Lone Ranger’s story, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles really did feel like the April O’Neil Story with the turtles as side characters. I remember watching this movie and thinking “The title character appears in the first fifteen minutes. And he defeats the main villain? What novel concepts!” (Rant and spoiler alert: Yeah, I liked Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, but good God was I angry when APRIL DEFEATED SHREDDER!)

In terms of this film’s criticism, Johnny Depp brought up a good point when he said that critics were writing reviews of this movie before it even came out. At first, I thought he was just bitter, but looking back on it, I think he has a pretty valid point. Largely because I remember seeing people taking this movie apart before it was released. One in particular that angered me was “How the Pitch Meeting for the Lone Ranger Must Have Sounded” (or something like that). I won’t give a blow-by-blow recap of everything they said (largely because I can’t remember every detail of some article I read over a year ago). However, they made one criticism that really angered me. First, they criticized Armie Hammer for being a relative unknown. This angered me because we need to create new stars. After all, I imagine people down the road will be saying “What’s this Alex deCourville doing on my TV screen?” Putting my personal bias aside, there have been many times I was confused why some actor was presented as a star only to find out they were someone I should be a fan of. I remember when The Watch came out – like a lot of people – I wondered who this Richard Ayoade was, and why they would put him on the poster. Years later, I discovered The IT Crowd, and found out what a great comedian he is. Some of you may have a hard time believing this one, but there was actually I wondered who this blue-eyed woman with kind of a weird name was in so many movies. Hint: One of them was Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy. Hard to believe I know, but it wasn’t love at first sight…

However, the thing that really irked me about complaining that Armie Hammer was an unknown was that they complained about Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter being overused. Forget my feelings about both of those actors. The simple fact is you can’t have it both ways. If you think certain actors are overused, then don’t complain when someone new steps up! My brother brought up a good point that it is kind of weird to have one of the biggest stars in the world play the sidekick and an actor who’s not exactly a household name play the hero, but I’m still glad the filmmakers at least TRIED to create a new star.

Other defenders of this film maintain that people were criticizing the budget and production troubles rather than the film’s content. I recently saw something that validated this complaint: I stumbled upon Watch Mojo’s list of the worst films of last year. Naturally, The Lone Ranger made the cut. And they said NOT ONE WORD about the actual content of the film, and only commented on the fact the movie was a box office flop. I’d make more critiques about how this film was criticized, but a lot of it reflects how I feel about modern film criticism in general. And that’s an article on its own (maybe even a few).

Now I realize that while I’m saying people hated this movie because they wanted to hate it. I realize some people may think I wanted to like it so I could thumb my nose at the haters. Maybe there is some validity to that, but I’ve had my desire to like a maligned movie backfire on me. (I apologize if I’m opening any wounds, but this was the only example I could think of.) Years ago, I rented Death to Smoochy from Netflix. Despite that movie’s negative reviews, I gave it a chance after hearing a few positive reviews. I was hoping to discover some underrated gem… only to discover most of the critics were right. Yeah, I laughed here and there at the movie, but most jokes did not hit, and the movie is not as much about Robin Williams’s character – or his feud with Edward Norton – as the ads lead us to believe. As far as I can tell, Death to Smoochy has a bit of a cult following, but it did little for me. (Though if you wanna see some underrated Robin Williams movies, I recommend What Dreams May Come, One Hour Photo and Insomnia.)

Now I’ll be fair. Not everyone is going to like this movie. That’s fine. But did this movie really deserve the level of hate it got? This movie was not only nominated for several Razzies, but it “won” the award for “Worst Remake, Rip-off or Sequel.” So according to the Razzies, this film was in fact worse than Grown-ups 2, The Smurfs 2 and Scary Movie 5. (See if you can guess which of those films weren’t even nominated for Worst Picture without looking it up.) Then again, the Razzies do have a reputation for nominating films for hype rather than quality. (I noticed they don’t even nominate a lot of those awful parody films – probably because it would get redundant after a while.) I mentioned the Cinema Snob already, and even he agrees about that one, as demonstrated by his rant in his Mommie Dearest review. Don’t believe me? Here are a few examples of Razzie nominations in the past: Stanley Kubrick Worst Director for The Shining, Brian De Palma Worst Director for Scarface, Newsies Worst Picture of 1992 (in a year where Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot wasn’t even nominated), Jack Nicholson Worst Actor Hoffa (a performance that many pegged for Oscar consideration), Rambo: First Blood Part II winner Worst Picture, Mr. T Worst New Star Rocky III, Jim Carrey Worst New Star of 1994. (Though if there is one thing I love the Razzies for, it’s that my beautiful Zooey did NOT receive a nomination for The Happening.) Also, the movie has a 6.5 on IMDB. Now, that’s not exactly a score one brags about, but does that really sound like the score of a truly awful film?

For the record, I do practice what I preach. Some of you may remember my rather scathing review of Man of Steel. Maybe it’s because my disdain for that movie has dissipated considerably, but every time I saw Man of Steel on worst movies of the year list, I thought “Come on, it wasn’t THAT bad!” Yeah, I dislike the movie, but I wouldn’t lump it in with the truly awful films of last year such as Movie 43. And it did at least try to be something unique which is more than I can say about something like Turbo.

So why has The Lone Ranger gotten as much hate as it has? I’m reminded of what The Nostalgia Critic said about Waterworld. (For the record, I’ve never seen Waterworld, but I think this is a good example.) Although he disliked the movie, he admitted that it wasn’t as bad as it had been built up and argued that its overbloated budget, troubled production and hype machine created vitriol for this film because all those things didn’t create a better product. (Also, FYI: Thanks to the international market, Waterworld ended up being profitable.) After all, compare this to another movie that I liked from last year that everyone else hated: Oz the Great and Powerful. People have been taking pot shots at that movie, but it didn’t get any Razzie nominations. Its IMDB score? 6.4. So why do I have to defend The Lone Ranger and not Oz The Great and Powerful? It’s not just because I already wrote a review for Oz, but Oz made money. It was a hit at the box office, people disliked it and everyone but me, Moviefan12 and my mother just has to live with a few complainers.

Now, time does have a way of changing people’s opinions on movies. Jerry Bruckheimer brought up a valid point when he reminded people that movies like It’s a Wonderful Life, 2001: A Space Odyssey and The Shining were trashed by critics at the time, but are now considered classics. (He also lumped Blade Runner in with that list, but I don’t think opinion changed on that movie until the superior director’s cut was released.) I can concede that one of my personal favorites The Big Lebowski was a flop in its time, and look where it is now. Even individual opinions can change. I hated Thor the first time I saw it. I decided to give it a second chance when it popped up on Netflix and I realized it was pretty good. (I wonder if the Thor movies just need two viewings to appreciate because I found The Dark World very boring.) Bruckheimer believes the same thing will happen to The Lone Ranger. People will discover it as a masterpiece years down the road… I can’t give it that vote of confidence. I say that because even though I’ve defended it, I don’t think The Lone Ranger is THAT good. But films can be redeemed in different ways. I see The Lone Ranger having a reputation similar to films such as Mystery Men, Hook, The Cable Guy and The Exorcist III. Those are movies that were hated for one reason or another in their own time, but have gained cult status. (Another fun fact: The Cable Guy and Hook were in fact both box office hits.) I also find those films to be a fair comparison to The Lone Ranger because while I do like them… they are not perfect films.

So those are my thoughts on a movie that I thought got a bum rap, and… boy, I really had a lot to say about that, didn’t I? If I ever update my list of movies I like that everybody else hates, I sure hope I can truncate all this to a paragraph…

Coming soon: “Robert Tolkien is Elected” has sadly hit a snag. I was planning on waiting until that podcast play was published to republish my Robert Tolkien short stories – as a way of making it a bigger event. However, with the release date becoming a question, I decided I’ll republish them sooner. So expect those back up soon.

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