Hi-ho, Johnny Depp, it’s Pirates of the Old West! Captain Jack Sparrow returns, this time pretending to be a Native American (which would probably be offensive if it was anyone else besides Depp). But seriously, this is more Pirates than The Lone Ranger as far as pacing, characters, historical accuracy, explosive sets, and background stories (absolutely everything has a background story, even a fake leg) are concerned. In other words, it’s a Bruckheimer/Verbinski film. But does this movie strike gold or fire blanks? (Sorry).
There was a lot of build-up for this movie. There was an absurd amount of build-up for this movie. Look back at the last few months of my reviews- literally every single one of those movies had a Lone Ranger trailer before the showing, and there’s quite a bit of variety in these movie genres. I was already sick of some moments a month before seeing the actual film, which is unfortunate. Even more unfortunate is how spoiler-ish the trailers are, revealing key moments and plot points from every single chapter of the film, from opening to finale. So yeah, thanks for those stolen surprises, Disney.
One actual surprise is how well the Lone Ranger John Reid (Armie Hammer) and Tonto (Johnny Depp) worked together. In anyone else’s hands, the characters could have come across as unlikeable and clueless (Reid) and loopy (Tonto). Also, William Fichtner as villain Butch Cavendish makes a legitimately creepy villain, but honestly he feels like he was written for a different movie.
The reason I say that is most of the movie consists of Johnny Depp being weird, over-the-top action sequences, buddy humor between the leads, and Johnny Depp being funny. And then we have a scene (MILD SPOILERS) where all the good guys get gunned down by the villain, who then cuts the heart out of a screaming good guy, and then eats it, shown through reflections in the brother’s eye. Whoa, kiddos, why aren’t you laughing anymore? Talk about a mood swing. Another scene has Native Americans, in a new creative twist, getting gunned down dramatically by corrupt American Army soldiers. As they fall, we keep cutting back to Johnny Depp comically doing something comic- in other words, this movie has wildly inconsistent tones. Maybe the recurring line “nature is out of balance” was referring to the screenwriters.
Helena Bonham Carter plays Red, who in summary is one of the film’s throwaway characters. This would be fine, except they used Helena Bonham for the throwaway role- she gets barely any screen time here (unfortunately). The other underdeveloped character award goes to the Calvary officer (Barry Pepper), who basically is there because the editor forgot to cut out all his parts.
Ultimately, the only standout, memorable part for most people will be the final train sequence, due in large part to Zimmerman’s thunderous rendition of the “William Tell Overture.” Here, we get all the slick action hijinks promised (and spoiled) in the trailers. Between dueling train tracks and Reid riding his horse Silver on top of and inside the train cars, things finally get fun- but then the sequence ends. Cue a random ending scene using the random Old Tonto framing gimmick, and you realize how much better this movie could have been.