Is it just me?... Or was The Lone Ranger the best movie of last summer?

One Total Film writer argues the case…

In our regular polarising-opinion series, Total Film writer Paul Bradshaw asks, ‘Is it just me? … or was The Lone Ranger the best movie of last summer?

Waterworld. Cutthroat Island. John Carter. All more successful than last summer’s $250m runaway train, The Lone Ranger.

Worse still, everyone knew it was going to flop before it even came out. Plagued with production problems, director Gore Verbinski’s Saturday matinée was shut down when a spiralling budget saw it run out of money in the middle of the desert. Nothing sets a critic’s keyboard clicking like rumours of gross overspending – and Disney’s leaky cash cow couldn’t have had a bigger target carved into its backside.

“I think the reviews were written eight months ago,” said a grim-faced Johnny Depp during the miserable press tour last August, with the verdict of the New York Post hanging heavy over everyone ’s head: “a bloated, misshapen, stillborn mess”. Except it wasn’t. Standing out amongst a slew of sequels and button-mashing FX clones, The Lone Ranger was the only one of last year’s crop that understood what the summer is all about.

Beautifully shot, endlessly enjoyable and bursting with popcorn action, it borrowed the best of Raiders Of The Lost Ark, Stagecoach and Pirates Of The Caribbean to craft an old-fashioned adventure that made the western fun again. It might have caught flak for its all-inclusive tone and kiddie-unfriendly running time, but this was a film designed to dominate big screens and entire afternoons.

What’s more, it has a fab finale, with Depp (at his Buster Keaton best) fighting baddies, jumping horses and climbing ladders aboard two speeding trains. Ignore the reviews and it’s impossible to watch it without a grin forming. But what about the rest?

The Lone Ranger was hemmed in by a dozen other tentpoles titles that didn’t come close to besting it. World War Z failed to hammer an indie genre into blockbuster shape, Olympus Has Fallen and White House Down quickly cancelled each other out and the only people who weren’t disappointed by Elysium were the only people who haven’t seen District 9. The Wolverine was ruined by a robo-suit, Star Trek Into Darkness was painted by numbers and Fast & Furious 6 was hardly more than another disc in the boxset. Which brings us to the big three.

Anyone who calls The Lone Ranger big and dumb should re-watch Pacific Rim: less a film than a multi-market screensaver that stung like a late-night Xbox marathon. Likewise Man Of Steel was too much, too soon; glazing eyes with joypad direction and CGI overkill. Iron Man 3 did a good job with the franchise, but as Marvel’s supers enter their third and fourth sequels, apathy is starting to creep in – or maybe it should.

The Lone Ranger cost a stupid amount of money but at least you can tell, from the real sets to the jumping from real trains; there’s an obvious difference between watching Johnny Depp ride a horse through Monument Valley and seeing Russell Crowe ride a cartoon dragon through an exploding volcano. It might have tanked at the box office but it deserved more respect than the competition.

Or is it just me?

Agree or disagree? Have your say below and a selection of the comments will be printed in our next issue.


    • DrSax

      Mar 18th 2014, 12:34

      Not just you. I enjoyed it. Would have liked to have seen another to be honest...

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    • 2Dglasses

      Mar 18th 2014, 12:41

      Not the worst perhaps but any more than £80m budget was ridiculous. Pacific Rim was a bit marmite, i think a lot love it but at least the CG was justified. Man of steel was good except for the matrix revolutions overkill finale. IM3 the rot is setting in but i think those 3 were better. ST:ID just about matched it but next films needs to be original and up its game, not seen Olympus Down or the other one, Fast 6 and wolverine were worse. Its a bit like all the films you mention, anything witha big budget is ALWAYS better than its reputation if it flops.

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    • knobbygd

      Mar 18th 2014, 12:53

      Yes I would agree. It was a popcorn/brain candy movie that was enjoyable. Johnny Depp was great. It was hardly the worst movie of the year.

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    • MaxStone

      Mar 18th 2014, 13:52

      It was certainly one of the best Summer Blockbuster films of last year. I was lucky enough to see it a free preview and so I got to see it before the rumours about it had spread. To me, it was like the Pirates of the Caribbean : The Curse of the Black Pearl set in the Wild West. That isn't to say I feel that Johnny Depp's Tonto was a rehash of Captain Jack Sparrow (as many claimed). Yes, obviously it was the same actor but he played the two characters very differently. However, I would say his Tonto was as likeable and and as fun as his Captain Jack Sparrow. As for the film itself, I had no expectations and I came away really impressed. It was completely OTT, just as a good blockbuster no-brainer popcorn movie should be. I suspect it was probably too long for a younger audience but it was full of excellent and exciting big screen scenes. It's certainly a movie that needs to be seen on the big screen and I think anyone who missed it at the cinema missed a treat.

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    • cathyvocke

      Mar 18th 2014, 14:08

      I loved the film. Perhaps about 20 minutes could've been shaved off, and maybe it had a subplot too many, but overall it was great fun and it also had a lot of heart. By comparison, I was very disappointed in Pacific Rim and especially World War Z, both of which I had high hopes for. The Lone Ranger got trashed by critics because it was an easy target.

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    • RandomSprinkles

      Mar 18th 2014, 15:14

      Thank you for this! I loved the movie but definitely believe it could be tightened up a bit. I had a problem in that it seemed the filmmakers couldn't make up their mind whether this would be a fun light-hearted comedy western or if it would be a drama. Tonto's making jokes while a whole tribe of Native Americans are getting slaughtered and I think with the filmmakers wanting to tell all these different stories, the movie got a bit jumbled. Pirates of the Caribbean has pirates knocking people off but this was a bit different. I also think the whole part with old Tonto telling the kid the story could have been cut. We didn't need any of that. The whole movie would have been a lot tighter and still made sense without it. I thought the train scenes were phenomenal and loved watching The Lone Ranger ride Silver on em, around em, and through em. The effects were great and it's unfortunate that the movie cost so much. I know people that have talked of how "bad" this movie was because it flopped and they hadn't even seen it! They just go off of what the internet says! This one cost a lot to make and didn't break even but that doesn't mean it was a terrible film. It's too bad the western just isn't a popular idea in at this time. I really enjoyed The Lone Ranger.

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    • RandomSprinkles

      Mar 18th 2014, 15:15

      Oh and I loved his look. I thought the Lone Ranger's outfit was perfect and very sleek.

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    • vinnym1980

      Mar 18th 2014, 15:53

      nah its just you, it was mostly bad, nothing happened for he middle 1hr 1/2 i was bored. 3/10

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    • RidleyS91

      Mar 18th 2014, 16:54

      No it's not just you... even if I actually found the tone shifts glaring at first. But one thing I don't agree: was I the only one who thought Elysium was nothing like District 9? And the other films you mention... you make them sound like they are all c**p (IM3 excluded) but WW Z was quite thrilling, MoS was great (Matrix Revolutions overkill finale INCLUDED) also was The Wolverine (the robo suit motivation is quite foreshadowed if you ask me), Pacific Rim was insane fun for your inner kid and Star Trek handled it pretty well (I could have complained about the villain though... not for his characterization but his name). FF6 WAS another disc in the boxset but not less fun because of that. But I'm divagating here: The Lone Ranger is very underrated and unseen little gem. Only time will tell if it gets unburied or remains hidden and forgotten in movie history

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    • FBKTudor

      Mar 20th 2014, 12:09

      I really enjoyed it. I saw it an empty screen but thoroughly enjoyed its Western setting, in-jokes, and homage (with the William Tell overture). William Fichtner was superb as the bad guy too. It was not too CGI heavy either, which made it easier on the eye than most of the other Blockbusters which looked more like computer games on screen.The film also maintained a sense of fun. I feel it is unfair for critics to prejudice a film with poor reviews based on production difficulties and a desire for a sensationalist story of financial failure. This film was pure escapist fun with some beautiful Western vistas and real location work. By comparison, it was better than each of the 3 Pirates of the Caribbean sequels in my opinion. It should be said that I also enjoyed John Carter, which was a lot of fun and felt like a classic Buck Rogers/Flash Gordon serial complete with fish-out-of-water moments, scantily-clad princesses, imperial armies, warring factions, and spectacular battles. The humour was great in it too (like where James Purefoy's guard is trying desperately to hint at the escape plan but John is oblivious).

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    • rhopkin

      Mar 21st 2014, 0:49

      No, it's not you! I loved it! I realized that when the Lone Ranger music kicked in I had a big s**t eating grin on my face, and it didn't leave!

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    • Fozzy

      Mar 21st 2014, 13:20

      Yes it's just you. I'm not saying it was the worst thing aboput last summer and there was a lot to like in it, but ultimately it was just a bit of a mess, and since we're comparing to Pirates, while UI agree that it was as good as 2 and three, it lacke the wit and focus of the original Pirates. Again, not sying it's awful. it's just that I think there's a great summer blockbuster in there waiting to get out.

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    • Hadouken76

      Mar 23rd 2014, 10:03

      Hardly a feat seeing how 2013 was the worst summer for blockbusters. Movie quality ranged from let down to mediocre.

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    • frodo4president

      Mar 23rd 2014, 10:06

      I have to disagree. The Lone Ranger is genuinely one of the worst movies I've ever seen. Nothing works for me. Johnny Depp's Tonto is a massive distraction and simply doesn't fit well. Whenever the movie looks like it might get interesting, tense or even enjoyable, Depp does his awful Jack Sparrow fall-over-wait-for-laugh schtik. The Ranger himself is about as interesting as a rice cake. Also, in the first 2/5 of the movie, it explains that The Lone Ranger can no longer die in battle. So, tell me Gore Verbinski, how am I supposed to care about the action when I know the title character isn't in any real danger? Finally, it just royally p****d me off. It's just a boring, uninspired and lazy Pirates of the Carribean cash-in with no soul whatsoever. PS Pacific Rim was not "big and dumb". Ok, maybe it's big, but dumb? Guillermo Del Toro is a genius. By having the characters sharing memories, he develops them without being bogged down by exposition. Also, there's some great world building, a future that feels authentic despite the massive aliens hitting the massive robots. Finally, It was made with passion and love, unlike Verbinski's sell-out mess!

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    • markverdugo

      Mar 28th 2014, 19:05

      Agree with the article 100%. The Lone Ranger was the best movie of last summer. Definitely the movie with the most heart, soul, passion and love behind it! Great plot with Dark Knight complexity and an interesting dramatic storyline that is filled with suspense, intrigue, attention to details and laced with Depp's unique brand of humor. The ending is spectacular. Truly a fantastic final hour of cinema. I also agree with the author that the other movies from last summer were inferior to The Lone Ranger. So glad I purchased the Blu-Ray for repeat viewings. I also agree that Pacific Rim was heartless, soulless, CGI screen-saver trash.

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    • matthewcoury

      Sep 17th 2014, 18:43

      highly was wayyy more funny than pirates of the caribbean and was the best western i've ever seen....i have a friend who didn't like it and he always lets popular opinions shape his opinions on movies

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