The second trailer for Disney’s The Lone Ranger is out and oh God, it looks hilariously awful. Not because of Johnny Depp as Tonto, but because it just looks like a clichéd, bloated summer action movie. So, like, bad in the regular way.
People are, of course, always and forever going to debate Depp as Tonto, as we have done here and here. I will continue to defend any attempt to make Tonto not a completely racist cartoon, and based on what we’ve seen so far, he isn’t as terrible as he could be. There’s no way to make the word “kemosabe” work without sounding silly—it’s been destroyed by too much cultural parodying—but Tonto scans as pretty harmless, culturally speaking. He could be better (there’s an awful lot of mystical native bullsh*t going on), but he could be a helluva lot worse for sure. At least Tonto is less offensive than Joseph on Hell on Wheels.
I can already hear the complaints about Tonto talking to Silver, but, um, I talk to horses pretty much exactly like that, so I can’t judge. What horses, in my experience, don’t do is 1) talk back, 2) stand around in trees wearing cowboy hats and 3) bring people back from the dead. Silver is some kind of psychic Lazarus horse now and I got a good laugh out of that insane tree shot.
I’m superstitious about horse magic (white horses—like Silver—take the dead into the spirit world) but guys, the horse doesn’t actually have to be magic (see also: mystical native bullsh*t). But at least we weren’t subjected to a “hi-ho Silver, away” (yet).
I also laughed at the establishing shot of Armie Hammer as the Ranger, perched atop a towering burial scaffold which is in turn perched atop a towering rock formation. How did that even get up there? It defies logic to the extent that I was stuck thinking about that for several seconds instead of paying attention to the trailer. There is a lot of inexplicable stuff in this trailer, including that ludicrous train sequence at the end, and an odd disparity in tone between Hammer’s fairly serious take on the Ranger and Depp’s more tongue-in-cheek Tonto. That could spell more trouble than anything, if this movie can’t present a clear and concise vision of what audiences can expect in theaters next summer.
But you know what? It’s going to work. Back in June, when reports of budget woes leaked, I said I wasn’t willing to bet against Verbinski, because he’s pulled this type of rabbit out of a hat before. Based on this solid marketing strategy—let everyone get over Johnny Depp as Tonto before unpacking the story and introducing Armie Hammer as the Ranger—and what is, at this point, a wide open July 4 weekend opening, I can see this working. Especially with Hammer becoming the focus of the advertising. He’s believable as that stoic, heroic Old Westy guy. If Shia LaBoeuf could sell three Transformers movies in which his most dynamic co-star was a Camaro, I won’t be surprised to see audiences eating up Hammer as backed by Depp.
In the gossip world, everyone seems pretty well done with Johnny Depp. I expect The Lone Ranger to prove general audiences don’t share the same opinion.