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Come Back Klinton Spilsbury, All is Forgiven!

johnny_depp_lone_ranger_premiere_7-5-13-1 Depp at Lone Ranger premiere. To be fair, being able to feign this level of enthusiasm when offering up a cinematic turkey is itself pretty darn good acting.
(Photo by Featureflash / Shutterstock.com)

The Johny Depp Lone Ranger movie, at least based on early box office results, is shaping up to be quite the bomb. (Matt Drudge dubbed it "Kemobombe" earlier this week.) First, there's the running time; like all too many Hollywood action movies today, the Lone Ranger is an inversion of the Catskills joke Woody Allen tells at the start of Annie Hall: The food here is terrible -- and such large portions, too. The Atlantic describes "A Punishingly Overlong Lone Ranger," clocking in at 149 painful minutes:

As cinematic sins go, excessive length is hardly an original one. The delusion that bigger will always be better—that each additional plot twist will somehow signify ingenuity rather than desperation—is by now a fundamental operating principle in Hollywood. Blockbuster directors demand movies large enough to house their egos; the studios are in a state of near-constant panic (and theater owners even more so); genuine storytelling is migrating to television; a lengthy series of explosions translates seamlessly in Beijing or Rio de Janeiro; and on and on.

But to quote Jerry Seinfeld, something's gotta give. I'm sure if I set my mind to it, I could name a recent big-budget film that would have benefited from greater length. But a list of the big-budget films that would have been substantially improved by a zealous trim is... well, awfully similar to a list of big-budget films, period. I can't say whether I might enjoy a Transformers movie that was under two hours long—but one reason that I can't say is because the ones that Michael Bay has offered up to us have clocked in at 144, 149, and 154 minutes respectively. And it's not just the summer blockbusters: Les Miserables was a polished, well-crafted film that labored under the misconception that viewers wanted to pass the 19th century in real time. And don't get me started on Peter Jackson's first installment of The Hobbit or, like the movie itself, I might never stop. The only 140-minute-plus movie of the past two years that I can recall fully earning its running time was Zero Dark Thirty.

The liberal sci-fi-themed io9 Website's review of the Lone Ranger doesn't make the film sound like an enjoyable nine hours in the movie theater:

What makes the Lone Ranger finally embrace the need for his mask, and hence the whole "secret identity" thing? In a nutshell, he realizes his fellow white men are corrupt, and complicit in the mass murder of Tonto's fellow Native Americans. If he takes the mask off, then he too will wind up becoming complicit. Yes, that's right — in this film, the Lone Ranger's mask is made of White Guilt.

And in fact, the only function the Native Americans in this film have, other than Tonto, is to die horribly so that the Lone Ranger will have a catalyst to make him Man Up.

But it's more than that. We tend to think of superhero movies as power fantasies, in which the use of America's status as a superpower is reflected by the hero struggling to use his or her power responsibly. But Lone Ranger seems to be making the case that the real seductive fantasy of these stories is absolution from blame — the Lone Ranger gets the Native American seal of approval from Tonto, as long as he's wearing the mask. He gets surcease from America's original sin.

That's the secret of superheroes, according to this film: Peter Parker is a Tool of the Man, but Spider-Man is a free agent. Bruce Wayne is a capitalist running dog, but Batman fights for the little guy.

And that's why you deserve to suffer. Because a lot of innocent people had to die to make your costume fantasy possible, you bastards.

Yeah, that's the message I want to take away from a summer escapist comic book movie.

More -- sadly not Clayton Moore, alas -- right after the page break.