One must accept, nowadays, that when a major Hollywood studio introduces (by way of reinvention) a new superhero, the film that emerges will most certainly be an “origins story,” meaning that much time is spent on the making of the hero, and great–or if you look at it another way, very little–importance is placed on the ending, so that it sets up satisfactorily another story, and so forth, until we have ourselves a very profitable little franchise. Some might grumble at the first film which seems to be an expensive probe, testing the waters to gauge the general interest, and which, standing alone against more virtuous work, has not much value. But, if done successfully, we all agree that the next one has much potential to be great, now that the brand is a guaranteed money-maker and executives have relaxed momentarily. I thought about this after watching Disney’s “The Lone Ranger,” which is certainly the most perfect example of an origins story.
The film, made by the “Pirates of the Caribbean” team, runs for two hours and a half, and not until the last thirty minutes does the Lone Ranger really come out with guns blazing. Only for those last thirty minutes do you have the white ten-gallon hat, the tin star, the lasso, the horse, the attitude, and the Lone Ranger himself, very comically uprightly played by Armie Hammer. After much thinking, the man arrives at the conclusion that he should take the law into his own hands for the good of all. So, he gallops on top of a speeding train, saves the day, and then rides off into the desert, because if you resolutely utter a few words and disappear into the sunset you are not a genuine gunslinger. I would add, “Hi-ho, Silver! Away!”, which I think is a splendid line, but apparently—it is used once in the film—it’s too cartoonish to treat without ridicule. Go figure.
But, anyhow, onto the sequels. The next adventure which just might have more distinction and creativity to it. Barring the fact that sequels just might never materialize, which destroys the purpose of “The Lone Ranger” really existing, one cannot say it made a good case for itself—it curiously squanders itself, and possibly its next installments as well, with deeply confusing frame narrative in which a wizened old Tonto in 1930s San Francisco relates the story which happened many decades ago. Why? Who knows. Tonto—also known as a less bavard Jack Sparrow, also known as an uninspired Johnny Depp—now that his Wild Wild West days are spent, works all day in a fairground exhibit, stiff and immobile as the “Noble Savage.” He tells the origins story of the Lone Ranger, and his mystical Native American friend Tonto, meaning himself, to a disbelieving young boy dressed up as a cowboy.
To reiterate: the film begins with Old Tonto and it ends with Old Tonto, for some reason, hobbling brokenly into the desert in a long, unbroken shot over which the credits roll (I didn’t stick to see how long it lasted). But, again, why? This narrative framing makes the heroic exploits of the Lone Ranger belong in the past; apparently, the story is over before it has even properly begun. It is really the most befuddling thing in a film that is otherwise straightforward and honest in its reason of existence—to serve a higher purpose, and not itself.
Photo via Google Images.