You'd think, or at least hope, that a movie based on a '30s radio show-- and later a hugely popular TV series-- would preserve some sense of lightness. But even though The Lone Ranger
, in the manner of director Gore Verbinski's Pirates of the Caribbean
movies, overflows with spoofiness (Helena Bonham Carter as a madam with a loaded-for-bear ivory leg), its determination to wow is the grim kind. The movie is also overanxious not to offend: Verbinski uses a framing device to assert, repeatedly, that his movie is actually sympathetic to Native Americans and not just taking advantage of stereotypes. He clearly doesn't trust his audience to get his point of view; worse yet, he has to keep showing us how much he doesn't trust us. So, between reminders of all the atrocities committed by white men, we're supposed to laugh and have fun. As Tonto, Depp wears white clay makeup streaked with tears of black to signify the Great Sadness he carries within him. But even though Depp might have given The Lone Ranger
some soul, he's completely lost in it. The picture doesn't challenge him; in fact, it barely needs him-- it's so top-heavy with ostentatious yet weirdly unaffecting action sequences that he's rendered superfluous. Similarly, Armie Hammer, as that masked man, might have given the picture some sex appeal, but Verbinski and cinematographer Bojan Bazelli waste him, too: He's dashing in that skimpy leather mask and absurd white hat, but there's so much swirling around him that his face barely matters.