In spite of the relatively poor box office, The Lone Ranger (2013) is not a bad movie, far from it. However, it does have some problems in my view. I’ll start with minor ones first:
- This movie is too long for such a standard story
- It makes adorable rabbits very cruel, for no good reason
- Before the climax, The Lone Ranger is a fool
- The few action sequences before the climax are just not up to the scale and complexity of modern action block busters. The climax is well done, but the climax alone is not enough to save the movie. I would have a much better time rewatching Back To The Future III for the N+1 time.
- Although romance is not essential for many movies, when the action sequences before the climax do not satisfy, presence of some real romance may help. However, the movie chooses to put in a negligible amount of romance instead.
- The subject matter does not attract the audience in the first place
Now, consider that an unnecessarily long movie with few colors (however breathtaking the views of the nature may be), with half of the screen time occupied by a hero who is actually a fool, with too few exciting action sequences, and absolutely no romance, how can one expect such a movie to be a commercial success?
I’m not finished. There is actually a larger problem than all of the above. Observe that other than The Lone Ranger, all white men who have a screen time of more than 2 minutes are bad guys. It also conveys the point that the whole US army are bad guys (even though they just follow orders). Most importantly, it reiterates the history that Americans wiped out the natives. Who wants to be told that their ancestors are bad guys?
A less important, but related factor, is that the movie also truthfully depicts that Chinese workers are exploited for the railroad construction. This does not sound great for the Chinese market at all. As The Pacific Rim (2013) proved, a Hollywood movie cannot ignore the Chinese market.
I’m not saying movie makers should change history to say that Americans did not wipe out the natives, or that Chinese workers were not exploited. In fact, I admire the filmmakers’ integrity in not deviating from the truth. I’m just saying including such history in a movie is bad for box office. Apparently, Pocahontas (1995) perhaps made the commercially sound decision to be historically inaccurate.
Considering all these problems, I believe that Johnny Depp saved the movie from becoming an even greater disaster than it is.
(Disclosure: I’m Hong Kong Chinese.)