The Lone Ranger and Some Problems with Summer Blockbusters

Warning! There will be spoilers!
Warning! Stay away spoiler haters!
Warning! I blab spoilers at the drop of the hat!
Warning! Spoilers galore!
Warning! Warning! Warning!

I am a proud card carrying action freak. I love action adventure movies. I love CGI spectaculars. I love big blockbusters. I can watch Star Wars space battles, the sinking of the Titanic, Pandora in full revolt, and the whole world being destroyed in 2012 over and over again. When I go to the movies, and I go a lot, I tend to gravitate towards the eye candy, action filled, mindless entertainment, adventure extravaganzas. I don’t have any interest in real life trials and tribulations on the movie screen. Sure, every so often I go see some serious minded movie. But those are far and few between. My first choice is always the action adventure movie.

However, as much as I love action movies, as willing as I am to suspend belief, I do have my limits and my pet peeves that just ruin a good actioner for me. Take The Lone Ranger starring Johnny Depp and Armie Hammer. The Lone Ranger was showing in one of the bigger theaters in my local multiplex but there were only a handful of us there to see the movie. There were a couple of older couples and a few singletons like me. I had heard about the problems plaguing The Lone Ranger, cost overruns, production problems, so I wasn’t expecting Shakespeare. I just wanted some good mindless action fun. And on that field, The Lone Ranger more than delivered.

The Lone Ranger was great action fun. The opening train sequence was wild and fun and funny. The ending train sequence was even better. I laughed out loud when the “William Tell Overture” started up during that last train sequence. I love it when my action adventure throws in some good humor and this movie had that in spades. I thought Johnny Depp and Armie Hammer had good chemistry together, despite what some critics have complained. I got a chuckle every time one got frustrated with the other, every time Depp / Tonto got almost caught being smarter than he was pretending to be. I love a good pratfall and there were plenty in this movie: Tonto and John Reid / The Lone Ranger getting jerked off a speeding train, Tonto sticking his head in a bird cage, John Reid’s girlish shriek when he gets shot with an arrow, and more. So when I left the theater, my first thought was: “Hey, this is much better then I expected. It was actually a good, fun, sturdy Western. It’s getting a bad rep.”

I had read some reviews of The Lone Ranger. I had read and heard complaints that Johnny Depp and Tonto had taken over the movie and was disrespecting The Lone Ranger and all his history (I liked Depp’s Tonto and enjoyed seeing him be more than just a willing servant). I had heard that the Tonto makeup and costume was disrespectful to First Nations (The Comanche adopted Depp and his Tonto makeup is based on a famous painting called I Am Crow). I had heard that the movie was way too long and bloated. But I enjoyed it. So I decided to watch it again and see if it lived up to my first impressions.

I still enjoyed The Lone Ranger on second viewing. I absolutely loved both train sequences. I still think it is a good sturdy Western, very much like the Westerns on TV and at movies when I was growing up. And, while I do think the movie could be trimmed a bit, overall I did not feel it was too overly long. But I did notice problems on the second viewing that I was able to ignore on the first fun viewing. And the more I thought about those problems, the more those problems bothered me.

The first problem is the women. Or lack thereof. We have three, exactly three women in this movie (beyond a few women as background scenery). We have Ruth Wilson as Rebecca, wife of the dead brother of The Lone Ranger. We have Helena Bonham Carter as Red Harrington, the brothel owner with the fake leg with a gun in it. And we have some woman playing a Mexican servant who gets killed five minutes after we see her. Now sure, Rebecca gets to be brave and defiant and she gets to climb around on trains and Red gets to shoot things with her fake leg. But we have five thousand men in this movie and no one could think of anyway of sticking in a few more women?

This is a problem that infects almost all movies, especially action adventure, and gets very tiresome even for an action adventure lover like me. Sure, I like to see studly hunks saving the world and beating the villains. But I also want to see more women! With clothes on! Talking to other women! Not just crying or screaming for help! Why couldn’t we have a few more women in this movie? Maybe the Mexican servant woman could knock out her attackers and live or maybe some of the other prostitutes could get to blow things up or maybe some of the railroad tycoons could have snooty wives or maybe there could be women helping work around the railroad camps. But no. We only get three women.

The second problem is similar to the first and similar in the way it infects so many movies. We have five thousand men in this movie and almost all of them are white. Sure, we have the black ranch hand who gets killed five minutes after we see him, we also have some Chinese railroad workers (one of whom gets killed) and some brave Indian warriors (all of whom get killed), and at least one Hispanic bad guy (who also gets killed). But everyone else is white (many of whom actually live). This is a problem that drives me nuts. It’s like in The Walking Dead TV show where there is apparently only one black man in all of Atlanta, Georgia. Why can’t we have more PoC? Maybe a ranger of two could have been black or Hispanic. Maybe a few of the railroad tycoons could be PoC. Or maybe some of the soldiers. But no. We get a mostly white guy movie.

The biggest problem of all was simple geography. On my first viewing, all I noticed was the pretty scenery. Sure I realized it was Monument Valley. But it didn’t really impinge on my enjoyment until later. Until I realized, “Hey, wait a minute. This movie is set in Texas. Monument Valley is in Arizona and Utah. And it’s Navajo country, not Comanche. And hey, the Transcontinental Railroad didn‘t go through Texas.” Yep. Apparently Hollywood thinks we are all dumber than grass. This movie is set in Texas, starring Texas Rangers, but all the scenery is set in Arizona and Utah. This movie centers on the Transcontinental Railroad nearing its finish in 1869. That railroad was never, ever in Texas. And, when the main bad guy is showing off his big old wall map and boasting about his plans, it sure looks like the map shows the northern portion of Texas sitting smack dab in the middle of Kansas with the Transcontinental Railroad going through the middle of it.

Now, honestly, half of all American kids probably have no idea where the 1869 Transcontinental Railroad ran. And most have no idea what state Monument Valley is in. But that’s not the point. For me, the point is that when the movie boasts about having authentic costumes with no zippers and all the female actors wearing corsets  then, by golly, they can have authentic geography! It can’t be that hard. Doesn’t the state of Texas have any railroads? Doesn’t it have any pretty scenery? But no. Apparently this movie could only be made if they moved Texas to Kansas. Apparently, no one expected any movie goer to actually know where Texas or Monument Valley or the Transcontinental Railroad is located.

I still think The Lone Ranger has great action scenes and great funny moments. I still think Johnny Depp and Arnie Hammer, both, did great jobs as Tonto and The Lone Ranger. But, as much as I love going to the  movies, I have to admit I am getting tired of always, only seeing five thousand white guys with maybe one or two women and PoC. I am tired of movies that spend a hundred million dollars to get an “authentic” feel then just ignore it all and stick in whatever they want. But most of all, I am getting tired of Hollywood thinking I am too stupid to notice these problems.

The film The Lone Ranger starring Johnny Depp and Armie Hammer is new at theaters starting July 2013.

2 thoughts on “The Lone Ranger and Some Problems with Summer Blockbusters

  1. It’s like in The Walking Dead TV show where there is apparently only one black man in all of Atlanta, Georgia.
    because Atlanta has so few black people, right? SMH

  2. It's just that I want my movie/TV worlds to reflect my real world peoplewise. Not everyone is super skinny, super pale, super chiseled in the real world. I want to see this in the make believe worlds.

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