I have recently seen two superhero genre films that took seemingly ancient and beloved source material and applied the ol’ Reimaginer to it, the first, “Man of Steel,” an ostensible attempt to rub a little smudge on the Superman myth, as was successfully done recently to Batman, and today, I went to see “The Lone Ranger.”
Now, you might surmise from the art that has headed this blog for some years (which my Mother really likes, as she was both costume designer and photographer), Superman has long been near and dear as a story to me. My first allowance, in fact, was twenty-six cents per week, offered so that I could go up to the local five-and-dime and purchase the very latest Superman comic. I took interest in other costumed crime fighters, of course, but Superman was the core hero to me.
So of course I was intrigued by the notion of giving the “dark knight” treatment to our man from Krypton, and I was equally crestfallen to find that these moviemakers’ idea was to take the Superman story and to apply it liberally with “Transformers” level CGI and encounter upon punishing encounter among super hero and/or villains. “Man of Steel” was the kind of film where I sat there begging for its end. It is not so much a bad film as it is a self-inflicted punishment.
And can we please tamp on the breaks with films that now feel free to appropriate September Eleventh imagery? Attention, directors: It’s still too soon. We lived through it; you think we need to see it gussied up and ruling the big digital screen? “Man of Steel” is particularly egregious with this.
“Man of Steel” gets it right in spots, as in, it offers another viewpoint of the man Clark Kent was before he donned the cape, it bothers to reflect on what it would mean to be out in the world possessing that kind of power, and, for a while, it realizes that Clark Kent is just as interesting a character as is Superman, if not more interesting.
And, by the way: This isn’t an “S,” where I come from, it stands for hope? REALLY? FU, “Man of Steel.” What a horrible back-bend of bizarre conceit.
So, how could that movie make 2.5 hours seem so painful, while yet my selection today effortlessly held my captive attention for the same time period?
“The Lone Ranger” is a marvel. It is a nearly perfect movie. I have been champing at the bit to see it for months, and it was not as good as I had expected it to be. It was 12 times better. This is a film that adores its source, that paces its story, that plays the action like a well-strummed theremin, that is comedic and dramatic and entertaining and that hits every note perfectly right on through the coda.
Much of this is a credit to Johnny Depp of course, to the point that the movie could probably be re-titled “Tonto.” Casting the story with the sidekick as the brains of the operation is a brilliant turn of the wrench, and, when you think about it a minute, makes a lot more sense anyway. And it’s this kind of rethinking of story, this wonderful effort at more heavily detailing this canvas, that makes “The Lone Ranger” a more than welcome update.
I know, I know, I know. Some reviewers have panned “The Lone Ranger.” I have seen such reviews, and I do not understand them. What I know is that I have seen two perfect movies this year, the first being “Django Unchained,” and the second, this wonderful, fun, thoughtful film that reinvigorates a show I watched in reruns on the tube as a kid and that gathered reverence from guys like my Dad and my Uncle Hat.
Eschew the reviews. Go see “The Lone Ranger.” And, do not waste your time with “Man of Steel.”
Next on my list: “The Heat” and “20 Feet from Stardom.”