I said once that no matter how bad The Lone Ranger looks, I wouldn’t bet against director Gore Verbinski pulling a rabbit out of his hat and coming up with something entertaining and crowd-pleasing, if not exactly good. Verbinski is the kind of director that exceeds in chaotic conditions and he has a knack for finding solid character beats amidst splashy action sequences. If anyone could make sense of the mess that is The Lone Ranger, it’d be Verbinski.
And he may have done just that. A special Disney presentation in New York screened twenty minutes of Ranger for critics and the word is surprisingly positive. It does sound a little preposterous—evil bunny rabbits?—but no more so than the Pirates of the Caribbean, and the chemistry between Armie Hammer and Johnny Depp seems to be the biggest selling point. Which is not what I was expecting, actually. I like Hammer, he’s affable, harmless, handsome enough and reasonably talented, but I had him pegged as Ranger’s Orlando Bloom— little more than window dressing for whatever crazy sh*t Depp is doing. But this report makes it sound like they’ve got an equitable screen partnership, and if Hammer doesn’t fold into Depp’s shadow and manages to carve out a space of his own on screen, I’m going to have to revise my opinion of his talent.
Ever since breaking out in The Social Network, Hammer has been surprisingly cautious in his role selection. He, like Chris Hemsworth, is built to be a leading man, but where Hemsworth has run full-tilt at his leading-man career, signing on to anchor projects for the likes of Ron Howard and Michael Mann, Hammer has taken a more measured approach, sticking to supporting roles and, essentially, apprenticing under some of the biggest movie stars in the world, from Leonardo DiCaprio to Depp to Julia Roberts to, now, Tom Cruise (all he needs is Brad Pitt and he’s got a bingo).
Deadline is reporting that Hammer has signed on to star with Cruise in Guy Ritchie’s remake of the 1960s spy show The Man from UNCLE, which is basically a Movie Star master class. Once he works with Professor Cruise, Hammer will be ready to graduate to carrying his own projects. And both Ranger and UNCLE have the potential to expand into franchises if they’re successful enough, guaranteeing Hammer regular face time with the public for years to come. It’s possible that he starts this summer as That Guy and ends it as Armie Hammer: Star. And if Lone Ranger is actually some kind of good, if it really can compete with summer’s superheroes—Iron Man 3 and Man of Steel are both going to be HUGE; there’s a real possibility that Hammer could end up stealing some of Henry Cavill’s thunder.
There was an anecdote floating around after CinemaCon that Depp didn’t want to stand too close to Hammer, who is a giant, for fear of looking more wee than he is. So…will Tom Cruise make Hammer sit down in every scene they share?