Appellate Reviews: In re The Lone Ranger (2013)

Welcome to Appellate Reviews, where appellate judges experienced in reviewing others’ opinions apply that skill to others’ reviews of popular culture. We’ll begin with our top court’s top movie buff, Judge Harrell. We hope that over time this series will branch out to other judges and other genres.

In re The Lone Ranger (2013), Before The Honorable Glenn T. Harrell, Jr., Judge, Court of Appeals (with Steven M. Klepper, Reporter)

Review Under Review: 1 star (Peter Travers, Rolling Stone)

Representative Quote: “Why is The Lone Ranger such a huge flop at the box-office? … Because the movie sucks, that’s why.”

Ruling on Appeal: Reversed.


Why do you think The Lone Ranger (2013) was so poorly received?

The root cause of folks “not getting” this movie is based on a generational chasm. One needs to have grown up watching “The Lone Ranger” on TV and/or as a serial at the local Bijou prior to the main feature (back in the day, as it were, when serials like “Buck Rogers” and “Rocket Man” preceded the main feature) to be able to appreciate the re-interpretation and new direction that Armie Hammer and Johnny Depp took the Lone Ranger and Tonto.  Without the perspective afforded by this continuum (and assuming that one does not subscribe to a sacred cow attitude toward the characters as portrayed by Clayton Moore and Jay Silverheels), it is predictable perhaps that a more pacifist Lone Ranger and flamboyant Tonto might be oft-putting to fixated purists. For the price of my admission (and that of my wife and the other couple of comparable age who joined us), the movie was a diverting reinvention (albeit a bit over long), with high production values. Let’s face it, when the full orchestra begins the William Tell Overture in the climatic chase and action sequence near the movie’s end, one would have to be corpse not to forgive any foibles to that point and revert to the old time matinee where your heart would race to keep time with the music. Contrary to Mr. Travers’ view, the only sucking sound that could be heard in my theater was attributable to the straw in my soda as I returned to those thrilling days of yesteryear. The Lone Ranger rides again!

Do you think that this movie, like the recent Cowboys & Aliens (2011), and the not-as-recent Wild Wild West (1999), perhaps suffers from trying too hard to fit the mold of a modern blockbuster?

If by modern blockbuster you mean “something that will appeal to an audience bereft of the patience to allow a plot and characters to develop, without intervening explosions and heads severed from torsos,” I suppose so. Although “The Lone Ranger” employed more comedic touches and higher production values than its TV show antecedent, it eschewed at least having recourse to aliens or out-of-time technology to propel its narrative and cater to an attention-deficient audience. In short, its action was historically appropriate. Thus, it is separated from “Cowboys & Aliens” and “Wild, Wild West” to that extent. It deserved a better fate.

The Lone Ranger (1956) was 86 minutes long. The Lone Ranger and the Lost City of Gold (1958) was 81 minutes long. The 2013 incarnation is 149 minutes long. More of a good thing, or overkill?

There can be little debate that the 2013 version was too long, by about 20-30 minutes in my estimation. Some of the flashback sequences and the dwelling on the pacifistic tendencies of the character that became The Lone Ranger seemed unnecessary or redundant in the extreme. Perhaps even some of the computer-generated special effects could have been lost without damage to the overall plot and theme. Nonetheless, you sly dog, you are not going to trick me into saying I did not like the movie overall.

Wouldn’t dream of it.  I think most movies are 20-30 minutes too long.  Final question: How would Johnny Depp’s dead-crow headdress look with a red Court of Appeals robe?

I wish I had it when the official Court photograph was taken this past Tuesday. I have been an advocate for judicial wigs and find it entirely consistent therefor to wear a dead crow.

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