I grew up around horses on my family's ranch, and I loved comic books. Nothing thrilled me more than to find a superhero who rode a horse, the Lone Ranger. I loved watching the 1950s TV show, and the cartoon in the 1970s. My brother and I had the action figures of Lone Ranger and Tonto. He was a true-blue good guy, who told the kids to buy Ovaltine and to not shoot each other in the eye with BB guns.
I was totally stoked about the big budget movie "The Legend of the Lone Ranger," in 1981. To this day, I've only seen it the one time, opening weekend. I don't remember if it was any good. I liked it then, but I've heard bad things. But that's beside the point. In thinking about the Ranger and awaiting this TV-movie from The WB, I uncovered a fact about my own origins: it was because of the Lone Ranger that I first lost my innocence about Hollywood movie-making. I gained my first editorial viewpoint thanks to the "Legend" movie, which started me down the slippery slope into being the writer on your screen right now.
I watched and loved every sci-fi and fantasy anything that came out. I felt that Hollywood had my best interests in mind. Then I read in TV Guide about the screwy thing that went on with that movie: the producers sued Clayton Moore, the elderly actor who played the Lone Ranger decades earlier in the TV series. For years, Moore had been doing appearances wearing the mask, going to elementary schools telling kids to drink their milk and walk old ladies across the road. If someone tried that today, he'd be shot. But at least the Lone Ranger could shoot back.
The movie people didn't want an old man wearing their movie prop, so they sued his mask off. I disagreed with their stance on the matter. Hadn't they heard Jim Croce's "Bad Bad Leroy Brown"? "You don't pull the mask off the old Lone Ranger." I bet those bastards tugged on Superman's cape and spat in the wind, too.
There was no Ranger sequel. Klinton Spilsbury, the Moore replacement, never acted again, the IMDB says.
In the mid-1990s, Joe R. Lansdale and Timothy Truman did an absolutely great "Lone Ranger and Tonto" comic book miniseries. Except for Jon Lovitz' classic Tonto on "Saturday Night Live," that was the last time anybody did anything with the characters that I've seen, until now.
The WB got all fired up after the success of Hot Teen Superman in "Smallville," and rightly so. "Smallville" is good. However, they're trying it again, first with this, and next season, with Hot Teen versions of "Tarzan" and "MacGyver." Entertainment Weekly said that this "Ranger" movie was supposed to be a series, but the cost to do a weekly Western on TV was quite high. So they only did this 2-hour pilot. If the ratings are good, they'll do more.
I don't know about the ratings, but one thing I do know, is this movie just ain't right. Chad Murray is totally miscast as the Ranger. He's reedy and blond. I guess they were going for an everyman Peter Parker kind of thing with him, but instead of striking a heroic note as the masked rider of the plains, he becomes a reedy blond in a mask.
The Ranger's real name is John Reid. But here, his name is Lucas Hartman. Why? Because kids of today can identify better with a "Lucas Hartman?" If that's the reason, why didn't they just name him Emimem Bizkit? If it's just ignorance, then how did they know to give Tonto a paint horse (which he had in the 50s TV series), but not the Ranger's name?
The guy playing Tonto is good, a lot better casting than the Ranger. For some reason, he and all the other Indians are highly-trained martial artists. They know Kung Sioux, I guess.
Hi . . . yo
This leads to the absolute funniest part of the whole thing. Tonto saves Hartman when they first meet by using a super karate jump kick. Later he asks Tonto to teach him. Tonto says when he needs it, it'll be there. During a big fight scene, the Ranger needs it, and he's able to save Tonto's life using it.
The funny part is, Tonto is being double-teamed by two thugs down by a stream. They're holding his head underwater, and he's struggling, blowing bubbles while L.R. leaps to his rescue. The Lone Ranger rescued Tonto from the 19th-century version of a swirlie.
In one spot, they try slap-assedly to let you, the viewer, know that they, the writers, know that this show takes place a long time ago. The Ranger's sister-in-law runs a store, but she says she's going to stop calling it a mercantile store, and start calling it a "department store," because all the stuff you can buy will be in departments.
They use several pop songs throughout, like in most WB shows. The only effective one is "Rise," by The Cult. I was surprised to hear it, since The Cult has been around for longer than 6 months. I was wondering throughout if they would use the William Tell Overture, the classic theme that everyone on the planet associates with the Lone Ranger. They waited till a riding-into-action montage at show's end -- but they blow this almost-cool moment, by using an ELECTRIC GUITAR version.
They try to shoe-horn in Lone Ranger trademarks. When Ranger meets Silver, he goes "Hi!" Then Silver jumps when Ranger touches his head, and Ranger says "Yo!"
He never uses silver bullets, although he steals silver from his own sister-in-law's "department store." He's not very good at stealth, because his little nephew catches him.
They throw in some good ol' fashioned sexual tension, which the Lone Ranger never had time for. (There were cattle rustlers to be rounded up, for goodness' sakes.) Tonto's sister is super-hot for him. He daydreams about her slipping nekkid into a hot tub with him. If Clayton Moore was still around, he'd say that youngster better daydream about marrying her first.
Lone Ranger Nekkid
Ranger wakes in the Indians' camp after being shot by the bad guys, and she tells him that she had to remove his clothes to take care of his wounds. He actually says the following words:
"Was . . . it . . . OK?" Ladies and gentlemen, the Lone Ranger talks about his penis! The only other time that ever happened is in that dirty joke, which ends with Tonto saying "Kemosabe, the doctor said you're gonna die."
There's one really good line in the whole movie, when the Ranger decides not to kill the main bad guy. He says "You'll rot in jail . . . and Hell ain't goin' anywhere." If the whole 2 hour movie had been like that, it would have been good.
Wes Studi, from "Mystery Men" and "Last of the Mohicans" is a great actor, but he's way out of this movie's league. His role as the mystical guide to Ranger getting in touch with his spirit, so that he can pursue justice, is busted.
When Ranger goes into the woods to seek his spirit guide, Studi gives him one thing to eat. After he eats it, he gets a vision. Huh. I wonder what that could have been. Instead of Ranger being in touch with the spirits, he's just whacked out on peyote.
Then Ranger accepts his spiritual whatever, by screaming at a drug-crazed illusion, "Spirit guide, do your worst!"
One more goofy-ass (pardon me, Clayton Moore: Goofy rear-end) thing: At the end, the townfolk stand around and talk, resolving the dangling plotlines.
The sister-in-law says, "And who was that masked man?" But besides her nephew and the bad guys, she's the only one who ever saw him. He never appeared in town.
Yet none of the town folk said "What masked man? Have you been into that Indian's peyote?"
They got a good white horse to play Silver, though. If they'd put it in modern times Silver would be his skateboard.
The Lone Ranger is well-known by everyone; he's the Superman of cowboys. Somehow this movie messed that up. "Smallville" does Superman without ever putting him in costume. "Lone Ranger" gets to put him in costume and everything, and they still didn't get it right.
They didn't understand they should have made a superhero movie set in the West, not a teen angst drama where everybody rides horses.