- Released Internationally on 03/07/13
- Released in Malta by KRS on 14/08/13
3-word review: Surprisingly, consistently, fun.
British comedian Billy Connolly once defined ‘intellectual’ as ‘someone who can listen to the William Tell Overture without thinking of the Lone Ranger’. Well that rules me out. After months spent watching re-runs of the 50s TV show as a child, Rossini’s orchestral gallop is forever linked to the masked hero in my mind, and I must admit I felt a surge of excitement when it burst onto the screen this time around.
News from afar
Inevitably, us European audiences are often influenced by feedback from the US when it comes to tentpole films which aren’t released simultaneously worldwide. In this case, Disney’s big summer blockbuster flopped spectacularly, despite Johnny Depp’s name being plastered everywhere and despite much of the crew from the Pirates of the Caribbean films being on deck. The reasons why could be debated at length, but for starters the film is definitely a good half-hour too long, which always means less box-office returns. That aside, however, I couldn’t find any obvious, major flaws, and I thoroughly enjoyed the ride.
Wild Wild West
Westerns tend to struggle to find an audience, but when done well I find them hugely entertaining. This one is about as western as it gets, and there’s equal parts sweeping, gorgeous vistas and oppressive heat and dust. Director Gore Verbinski (who has already regaled us with a masterful western starring Depp - Rango), makes more than the occasional nod to the spaghetti westerns of the Sergio Leone days, from highlighting the bad guy’s clear blue eyes to using incidental background sound effects to create tension. And like all the great classic tales from the west, train tracks and native Indians form an essential part of the plot.
Why so serious?
Thankfully, Verbinski steers clear of the classics when it comes to taking himself seriously, and just like Rango this film is infused with a healthy dose of self-awareness and humour. It is mostly provided by the misunderstood and seemingly not-too-bright Tonto (Depp), who proves to be a useful sidekick much in the vein of captain Jack Sparrow. He gets to do a lot of eye-rolling too, due to the bumbling antics of the titular character himself (Armie Hammer, The Social Network). The excuse for the Texas ranger’s lack of expertise is that this is an origin story, and he therefore makes the transition from clean-cut legal office man to bankable vigilante before our eyes. The tongue-in-cheek attitude is a blessing, especially when your hero is a man in a suit, mask and white hat, who rides a horse whiter than Shadowfax and who silhouettes himself against the setting sun whilst yelling “Hi-Ho Silver!”. Verbinski handles all this marvellously, and I for one laughed out loud more than once.
Cast & Crew
Besides the two main guys, the film is populated with a host of two-dimensional characters, but the talented cast does the job admirably, with William Fichtner (The Dark Knight Rises, Armageddon) finally getting a full-blooded bad guy role, Tom Wilkinson (Michael Clayton, Batman Begins) playing his usual shifty self, and Helena Bonham Carter (Big Fish, The King’s Speech) pulling out all her eccentric tricks. Behind the scenes, the film boasts wonderful scenery and some stunning shots, including a few self-aware, eye-catching ones as in all Verbinski’s recent efforts, and one set piece that looks like a scaled-down Helm’s Deep. Composer Hans Zimmer moves on from the noisy Man of Steel and shits into playful mode, including his all-important take on the Overture, which predictably ends up sounding like Rossini on steroids, in a good way.
In the end
It has its flaws, and it could have been shorter, but it’s gorgeous to look at, fun throughout, and packed with action, humour and some (predictable) drama. It may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but I found it ticked all my boxes for a summer blockbuster, and provided more escapist entertainment than many of its more successful summer competitors. And it was definitely the most fun I’ve seen on a train since Back to the Future Part III, which was over two decades ago.
Should you sit through the end credits? Yes