All the ingredients for a mega summer blockbuster are here, but somehow “The Lone Ranger” has failed to captivate U.S. moviegoers. Some estimate it may be the highest-grossing western in history, but it’s still falling far short of recouping its $225 million budget.
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Too bad, as the filmmakers did by all accounts at least try to avoid an offensive portrayal of Native Americans. (Whether or not they succeeded is the topic of hot online debate.) “The Lone Ranger” is the tale of the kemosabe relationship and adventures of Texan lawyer-cum-sheriff John Reid and Comanche misfit Tonto — a revamped duo who have come a long way since the various radio, film and TV series of the 1930s-50s. Reid (Armie Hammer) is endearing and nerdy, while Tonto (Johnny Depp) is man of many principles, including an insistence on wearing a large dead crow on his head.
“Pirates of the Caribbean” teammates Gore Verbinski and Depp (who is supposedly part Native American) did the research, brought in Navajo and Comanche consultants (apparently for the first time since “Dances With Wolves”) and altogether stitched the package with a thick thread of respect. That’s probably why the “faithful Indian companion” steals every scene and functions as a wise mentor to Reid’s out-of-depth white man. Why the tepid box-office reaction? Only the silver bullet knows. (K.S.)