Disney casts evil capitalist as villain in Lone Ranger

The Lone Ranger: An Uncomfortable Mix of Silliness and Sadism.

It’s way too long (almost two and a half hours), repetitive, and mostly unfunny, and its dependence on computer-generated imagery makes it feel almost 100 percent synthetic. But that’s not the really bad part of the $200 million comic Western The Lone Ranger. The latest Johnny Depp brainstorm —likely conceived on a hammock on his private island — is appalling in ways that you could never have anticipated. The movie mixes mismatched-buddy high jinks with scenes of carnage. In one scene, Native Americans are shot down by the U.S. cavalry on behalf of rapacious capitalist imperialists. Then it’s back to more Butch-and-Sundance antics, more pratfalls. I’m sure Depp and director Gore Verbinski didn’t mean it to come out this way, but the combination of liberal politics and Pirates of the Caribbean slapstick spectacle plays like Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee reconceived as a Disney theme-park ride.

The move echo’s a similar decision taken with Iron Man 3 when the filmmakers decided to replace the Mandarin with a new version that is a drug addicted actor fronting for the REAL villain: a greedy military contractor.

First, the makers of Iron Man 3 decided that the Mandarin’s propaganda videos would make the villain really, really resemble and echo Osama bin Laden. I don’t think that’s necessarily offensive or exploitative; I think that’s hitting the notes that stir fear in our subconscious in a very effective way. (Ben Kingsley talks a bit about it here.) He hates the United States of America for reasons that seem unclear, he’s determined to teach us a lesson, and he launches random, explosive terror attacks at various targets.

But making the Mandarin a ‘fake’ figure, created by a greedy Pentagon contractor who seeks to “control supply and demand of the War on Terror” … well, it’s one step away from joining the 9/11 Truthers…

Except that the terrorists we see in the real world are not in fact driven by ‘anonymous behind the scenes guys’ like shady defense contractors. The Boston bombers were not secretly being manipulated by Halliburton. The guys who killed our ambassador in Benghazi were not being paid by somebody who wanted a fat contract to provide embassy security in the future. This is conspiracy-theory thinking, and not only does it not fit in well in an Iron Man movie… it takes what had been this movie series’ most thoroughly menacing, frightening figure and turns him into a quick, cheap joke, and refocuses us on Guy Pearce’s Killian villain. Meh.

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