Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Yep, Gore Verbinski is directing The Lone Ranger, with Johnny Depp as Tonto.

Confirming something that has been rumored for literally years, Disney announced that Gore Verbinksi will be helming a feature-film retelling of The Lone Ranger. And yes, Johnny Depp will be playing Tonto. For what it's worth, Johnny Depp does have is 1/4 Native American, with a Cherokee maternal grandmother and a partial-Cherokee father. As to who will be playing the actual Lone Ranger, that is still up in the air, although I'm pretty sure that perennial favorite George Clooney has outgrown the part. Jerry Bruckheimer will be producing for a planned 2012 release.

The story is pretty simple: a young Texas ranger who is the lone survivor of an ambush; nursed back to health by the mysterious Tonto. How you tell that story and what embellishments you add, well that's what will make the movie. We haven't had a feature film version of this story since The Legend of the Lone Ranger in 1981. That would-be epic actually had a pretty strong first two acts, which detail the backstory of 'that masked man'. Christopher Lloyd brought a cold, clinical menace to the lead villain (longtime nemesis Maj. Bartholomew 'Butch' Cavendish). But the film peters in out in the finale, with most of the Lone Ranger's heroic initial exploits being devoted to just sneaking around the villain's compound and occasionally punching someone. Still, the structure of the film reminded me not a little of Batman Begins, and I'm willing to bet that the Nolan Batman reboot is the template that Disney will be playing off of for this new version.

Aside from casting John Reid and whatever villain they pick, the key is tone. While I'm sure we'd all love to see a Lone Ranger movie with the tone of The Proposition, that's not going to happen. Best case scenario, we see a western in the vein of Silverado, which combined gee-wiz western adventure with a darker and character-driven revisionism. It's an interesting project, and one of the few new franchises that I'm actually interested in. Gore Verbinski is a pro through-and-through (this is the guy who gave us Mousehunt, The Ring, The Weather Man, and the whole Pirates of the Caribbean trilogy). That Johnny Depp would agree to team up with him for a fifth time speaks to the apparent quality of their upcoming animated film Rango. Tim Burton must be getting jealous. Anyway, more on this one as it develops.

Scott Mendelson

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