Where This Train is Headed, It Doesn’t Quite Know

The-Lone-Ranger-Tonto-and-Horse-550x365
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.