The Lone Ranger

The Lone Ranger

Framing device marks the best instance of a blockbuster adventure film sincerely embracing the material and honoring its inspirations (which is practically a prerequisite for any Western) while also functioning as a metatext on the nature of storytelling. It goes beyond how and why artists tell stories, though. It's about legends being passed down for a purpose. While history is written by the victors, it's subject to revisionism. In this case, the only justice Native Americans will ever receive is the telling of their story.

Meanwhile, Verbinski—high off the success of his Pirates of the Caribbean hat trick—continues his alliance with Bruckheimer and Depp. The Lone Ranger, dearly in love with its genre, deconstructs the myths and reconstructs them into something better and more daring. Verbinski operates in the widest possible sandbox to bring the Old West to life in a way that makes sense for the next generation. The idea is to show kids and those not already converted why the Western endures in the minds of many. A lesser filmmaker would have delivered a straightforward modern-day update or deconstructed everything without putting the pieces back together.

Although cognizant of the evils that big business has brought to this country using the government as its puppet, The Lone Ranger is not an anti-American or even anti-frontier film. There's more to the tragedy than the Natives' genocide. The good Texas Rangers who tried standing up to corruption are assassinated. Progress doesn't discriminate, it comes for all colors of the underclass. The villains also stoke the fires of racial animosity by blaming the settler attacks on the Comanche. Just like today, it's only in the interest of our rulers if the different races are at each other's throats.

Tonto's eccentricities are explained as a man who was deceived and broken in childhood, unable to face the consequences of his "bad trade". The very next scene after the American cavalry massacres the Comanche tribe plays out Tonto's dream of bringing the guilty to justice. This is his retelling of events, the antidote to every noble savage tale we've had to endure in our lifetimes. At the end, his story lives on in a child's imagination and he's able to return home. Tonto's body may be withered but his spirit has been rejuvenated.

The train chase finale, edited to the rhythms of the William Tell Overture mixed with Hans Zimmer's original themes, is among the most exciting action sequences ever committed to celluloid and the triumph of Verbinski's career. The Lone Ranger was savaged by woke cultists before its release as well as critics who learned of the movie's extraordinary price tag. As if there's anything wrong with spending as much of Disney's money as Verbinski and Bruckheimer could get their hands on in order to create art. A declaration of war by the establishment on creative ambition and making a movie outside the bounds of acceptability to the cultural tastemakers. The result derailed Verbinski's career and set the stage for the implementation of Disney's agenda: nothing but capeshit and live-action remakes of their animated canon.

Looking back, The Lone Ranger was among the final gasps of something different, something weird, something with more on its mind. It's not about America as a land of original sin, but one infected by the same malady we find ourselves ill with today: ruthless capitalism aided and abetted by the United States government that wipes out anyone standing in its way. The only response to evil this pervasive is to operate outside the law and take justice into your own hands. This isn't a message for audiences who believe that our institutions can be reformed, or in the power of electoral politics. Genuinely radical, not as an aesthetic or a trap to reroute people back into the system, but as the result of taking a fervent moral stand. A radiant light in a shadowy realm.

The greatest motion picture of the 2010s, both for its accomplishments in the art form and its message.

Gandalf the Gay liked these reviews