Johnny Depp’s film career since the first Pirates of the Caribbean has been a baffling mystery to me: Why would a guy so selective and daring in his film choices in the first part of his career (he only had one $100 million movie in the first 19 years of his career, and that only came 15 years in [Sleepy Hollow]) suddenly begin taking on these huge movies, like the Pirates sequels, The Tourist, Alice in Wonderland, and now Disney’s The Lone Ranger? Here’s a guy we used to associate with Terry Gilliam, Jim Jarmusch, and those quirky, gothic Tim Burton films, and now he’s suddenly making a $215 million Disney film based on an old television show that — like Dark Shadows — no one really gives a damn about anymore.
Looking over at his supporting cast in The Lone Ranger, however, it all began to make sense. This is not the work of a man looking out for himself. It’s not a selfish profit motive. No. Johnny Depp is a goddamn giver. He is a patron of great actors. After spending so much time toiling away in smaller, more challenging movies and never receiving a paycheck worthy of his talent, Johnny Depp has decided to do what no one did for him: Provide talented people with hefty paychecks for little work, hefty paychecks that allow them to live comfortably while they’re making better, more artistic movies, like the kind that Johnny Depp used to make.
Consider the fact that W. Earl Brown, who has one scene in The Lone Ranger, probably made more for that one scene than his last 20 roles combined. Or that the brilliant character actor, William Fichtner — who plays the villain in The Lone Ranger — probably made more for making this movie than he’s made his entire career up to this point. Or Ruth Wilson, the devilishly amazing redhead from BBC’s “Luther,” who not only got paid incredibly well, she landed a high-profile role that will allow her to make more, better films, like the ones she deserves to make. Tom Wilkinson has been nominated for two Oscars, and yet he made more on The Lone Ranger than in both of those movies combined. Times two. James Badge Dale got no appreciation for “Rubicon,” and was mostly cut out of World War Z, but The Lone Ranger gives him needed exposure to elevate him into the mainstream because he, too, is a worthy talent. Plus, Stephen Root, people! Three scenes probably fetched him $100,000 at least, which means that he’s not going to have to start teaching acting classes at an adult ed anytime soon.
Never mind that The Lone Ranger is a lousy movie — and it is a lousy movie — the $215 million spent on this two and a half hour sh*tshow probably employed 2000 people. There are countless gaffes, prop people, craft services outfits, set designers, and computer graphics people who can pay to put their kids through college thanks to The Lone Ranger. Johnny Depp single-handedly put a dent in the unemployment rate. He made a lot of Christmases happy ones. He allowed people to pay off mortgages, replace busted up cars, and put decent meals on the table. Do you have any idea how much good $215 million can do? Johnny Depp made that happen, and there’s probably not another actor who could’ve secured that much money for a movie this sh*tty.
Ultimately, what’s the harm in that? So, you spend an interminable two and a half hours sitting on your ass in an air-conditioned theater in the middle of the summer? Big deal! Think of the thousands who benefited from your unpleasant movie-going experience. THINK OF THE GREATER GOOD, PEOPLE.
Besides, the movie is not all bad. You do get to hear the “Lone Ranger Theme,” and it is spectacular (even better if you just close your eyes and absorb it, rather than watch the 17-hour action sequence that unfolds in front of you). Johnny Depp is also fitfully amusing, if you can get over the fact that he’s playing a Native American with a goddamn bird on his head. In fact, the idea behind the film — that a Native American thought of as a sidekick is actually the brains of the operation — is an interesting and noble one, and it’s not like an actual Native American could’ve gotten a $215 million film greenlit. Armie Hammer is not that bad, either; he manages to deftly straddle the line between hopelessly naive and heroic, and with a better script and less handlers on the movie, he probably could’ve made something somewhat memorable.
In fact, if they’d trimmed the movie by an hour, gotten rid of the embarrassingly bad framing device, the f***ing bird, and nixed the goofy animal sequences (like Silver drinking a beer and burping, or feral CGI rabbits devouring a piece of meat), The Lone Ranger would’ve been merely a forgettable action film, rather than the wretched, nearly unwatchable film that it is.
Indeed, there might have been an interesting film buried deep within The Lone Ranger, a $40 million film, perhaps, with a quarter of the special-effects sequences, a more thoughtful director than Gore Verbinski, and one writer with a vision instead of three with a financial agenda. But then, a $40 million film wouldn’t have employed nearly as many people, would it have? Would it have been a more enjoyable, thought-provoking film that better captured what the slaughter of Native American tribes meant, rather than turning it into a plot point designed to elevate a white man and a Native American played by a white man into heroes? Sure! Absolutely! But that wouldn’t have tested well with audiences, and do you have any idea how many market researchers are employed by a $215 million film? A lot, because a $215 million investment has to be protected, and how better to protect such an investment than by rounding off all the edges and removing anything in the film that might provoke something other than slack-jawed stupor?
Johnny Depp has done something important here: He has employed a village; he has brought financial reward to talented actors; and he has given us countless action sequences in return. This is an important movie, and if you want Johnny Depp to continue to do the important work of employing America, you should buy a ticket to The Lone Ranger, not because you want it to succeed (who cares? That money has already been spent!), but because it will allow Johnny Depp to continue providing jobs to thousands of people, and scores of otherwise thankless actors, who are typically paid scale (or less) to do artistic films which they then have to spend days and days promoting. Johnny Depp has given them a handsomely-paid vacation. And, as the most expensive film of 2013, that also makes The Lone Ranger the most important one in terms of creating jobs and stimulating the Hollywood economy.
So thank you, Johnny Depp, for making this heinous, overlong, dreadful pointless piece of sh*t! The next time I see James Badge Dale or Ruth Wilson as the leads in much better films, or Stephen Root or William Fichtner in a great cable drama, I will think of the exhausting day and a half I spent in the theater watching The Lone Ranger and remember that you made their lives financially comfortable enough that they could steal a few scenes in “Boardwalk Empire” or “Justified.”