First off, it’s been a while. I started this review as a facebook post, but it got out of control, so I moved it here. Anyway, come share in my turn to bash the Lone Ranger.
To touch on the whole Johnny Depp fiasco about another white dude wearing red face and how stereotypical the role is, let me say it doesn’t feel as bad as I was expecting. I had read that Natives informed some of the comedy in the writing, and that felt true, like when Tonto was asked why he was arrested and his answer was “being Indian.” It was good, but the introduction of mysticism doesn’t help the stereotype, nor does Depp’s wise but soft-spoken Tonto. The film does lay the groundwork for disbelief by starting with the metaphor of masks early on. Tonto says to never take off the mask. The only problem is Tonto/Depp either too subtly let the mask slip, they wear the mask the whole time, or there is no mask at all. Either way, Tonto lacks the depth to make him anything more than an in’din we’ve already seen.
As far as the movie as a whole, the lone ranger felt like pirates of the caribbean (think number 4 quality not number 1) only on trains and with american businessmen as the villan instead of the british empire. the film tried to sweep major issues/plot points like race and patriotism and genocide aside for the typical Disney ending. In the end, I was both offended as an American and as a minority, and here’s why:
A consistent note throughout is that the Natives are dying, that they are disappearing. In fact, one of the natives says it. To emphasize this theme, aside from Tonto, every single native character dies and Tonto is literally on display at the end, as if his people are gone. As the husband to a partially-native hawaiian woman and future father of partially hawaiian children, I saw part of my present and my future being erased. Indigenous people may have been killed off in genocidal numbers, but they’re still here.
The other problem I had was with the lack of remorse for “progress.” The movie centers around the transcontinental railroad. In the name of progress, the villans take part in wiping out a tribe of natives. While justice at the end is served, no one questions or cares about the price for progress. Everyone is kind of okay with it. Now, I love my country, but we have done some bad things in our past, which we try to make right years after the fact. Just because we have ignored transgressions in the past doesn’t mean we should ignore them now.
Overall, the Lone Ranger was a bad movie because it tried to be polished and dirty, pertinent and unoffensive at the same time. In other words, it uses hipster racism to ironically poke fun at racism, but it does so in a period piece where racism was absolutely deadly. It tries to poke fun at the white hat/black hat hero/villan, but resorts back to that dynamic for its happy ending with Lone Ranger become almost Superman at the end. It tries to say that capitalism/corporatism is the cause for these grand problems like corrupt government officials and genocide, but it offers no solution other than turn bandit and find justice with a gun.