New Mexico, Arizona and Utah Featured in The Lone Ranger

The Lone Ranger

Wednesday Matinee

By Jane Boursaw

Destination: New Mexico, Colorado, California, Utah, Arizona

Movie: The Lone Ranger
Reel Rating: 3 out of 5 Reels
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for sequences of intense action and violence, and some suggestive material
Released in Theaters: July 3, 2013
Genre: Action, Adventure, Western, Remake
Runtime: 149 minutes
Directed by: Gore Verbinski
Cast: Johnny Depp, Armie Hammer, William Fichtner, Tom Wilkinson, Ruth Wilson, Helena Bonham Carter, James Badge Dale
Official Site: The Lone Ranger

I saw The Lone Ranger the day after it hit theaters, and by then, both movie critics and moviegoers had slammed the movie mercilessly, calling it a jumbled mess and the worst movie they’d ever seen. But look, I always try to keep an open mind, because frankly, quite often the movies everyone else hates I love.

All that being said, The Lone Ranger isn’t the greatest movie I’ve ever seen, but it’s certainly not the worst. Sure, it’s long and rambly and lacks focus. But don’t let the critics dissuade you from seeing it. It’s still an entertaining thrill ride with great characters, stunts and travelers will love the *locations (and yes, I realize much of the action was added later via computer-generated special effects). The final scenes with people fighting inside, outside and atop a moving train are really fun (which, again, is probably done with visual effects).

*To guide visitors to these locations and others, the New Mexico Tourism Department created the New Mexico Film Trails site.

*Utah used cross-promotion with the film to boost tourism to their state.

*In Arizona, the Navajo Nation already promotes all the films made in Monument Valley and Canyon de Chelly, so add Lone Ranger to the long list.

The Lone Ranger

The story is a reboot of the characters made popular in the film serials circa 1930s and the TV show which ran from 1949 to 1956, starring Clayton Moore as The Lone Ranger and Jay Silverheels as Tonto. This new version reteams director Gore Verbinski with his Pirates of the Caribbean muse Johnny Depp, who stars as Tonto.

The story begins in 1933 San Francisco, where a boy in a Lone Ranger costume wanders into a Wild West show at the fair and sees an ancient “Noble Savage” in an exhibit. Yep, it’s Tonto. The wrinkled Native American tells the boy the story of an attorney, John Reid (Armie Hammer) who returns to his small Texas town in 1869, where his brother Dan (James Badge Dale) is the head Ranger. A railroad executive (Tom Wilkinson) is planning a public execution to prove to the community that the train – a.k.a. the Iron Rail – won’t bring lawlessness to the town.

But the criminal Butch Cavendish (William Fichtner – who knew he could play such a nasty villain?) escapes, and Dan’s entire crew of Rangers is killed trying to recapture him, including the newly deputized John Reid. But a white spirit horse (Hi-Yo, Silver!) leads Tonto to John’s body, who re-awakens and eventually becomes … The Lone Ranger. John and Tonto form an uneasy alliance to bring justice to the old west.

Ok, there are some problems with The Lone Ranger. As mentioned, it’s long. Surely a good film editor could have hacked at least 20 minutes from the 149-minute runtime. It also lacks focus, and the plot is overly complicated and violent (cannibalism! rape!). Remember, this is a movie with LEGO tie-ins, and it’s not exactly family fodder. Some scenes play like an episode of The Walking Dead.

And you’ve got a strange brew of cool stunts (Armie Hammer can really ride that horse), politically correct storylines (Native Americans die! At the hand of soldiers!), snappy banter, and emotional backstories that find Tonto disenfranchised from his tribe and the Lone Ranger in love with his brother’s wife, Rebecca (Ruth Wilson, who’s a dead ringer for Michelle Monaghan).

But anyone who grew up with the film or TV versions will surely feel a tinge of nostalgia at hearing Rossini’s iconic William Tell Overture as Tonto and The Lone Ranger get the bad guys. Depp’s version of Tonto has taken some flack, but aside from having only one facial expression for the entire movie, he still manages to play the character as clever and wise.

The Lone Ranger

And let’s not forget the stunning locations that lure you to travel the west, of which there are many. The train scenes were filmed in Durango, Colorado; Tonto’s childhood flashback was filmed in Lone Pine, California; and the exterior scenes were filmed in Angel Fire, New Mexico.

Other locations include Canyon de Chelly National Monument in Chinle, Arizona; Hurley, New Mexico; Monument Valley, Utah; and Puerco Valley, New Mexico. You can tell this is a production with a lot of cash behind it, including the extravagant set pieces (that train!), the likes of which only a Johnny Depp/Gore Verbinski production financed by Jerry Bruckheimer could afford. Still, the cast and crew ate a lot of dust filming this movie…

The bottom line is that The Lone Ranger isn’t the best movie of the year, and it’s really not for kids younger than 15, if that. But it’s still a worthy entry in the 2013 summer movie lineup. Johnny Depp has a crow on the top of his head, for gosh sakes.


One Reel – Even the Force can’t save it.
Two Reels – Coulda been a contender
Three Reels – Something to talk about.
Four Reels – You want the truth? Great flick!
Five Reels – Wow! The stuff dreams are made of.

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4 thoughts on “New Mexico, Arizona and Utah Featured in The Lone Ranger

  1. That’s a good way to put it – watch with the sound off. Hmmm… what other movies could we put in that category? I haven’t seen Summer Lovers. Maybe the recent sci-fi The Host. Beautiful western landscapes. Dumb dialogue.

  2. I’ve also enjoyed movies just for the scenery. I’m reluctant to leave even a terrible film. But if the scenery is beautiful, I’ll stay put just to enjoy it.

    Not sure I’ll pay for The Lone Ranger, however. I’ll look for a better moving with those stunning locations.

  3. Jane, this is the kind of movie that I recommend travelers watch with the sound off. It’s like the old Summer Lovers–my favorite movie to hate. GORGEOUS Greek island scenery and the dumbest dialogue and plot imaginable. But if you just LOOK and don’t LISTEN, I’ll guarantee you’ll want to go to Greece.

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