"The Lone Ranger" Returns in 2013

Photo Credit: Walt Disney Pictures
October 16th, 2012

"The Lone Ranger" Returns in 2013

-- In the beginning, "The Lone Ranger" was a radio show. In the 1940s, the beloved radio show expanded to become a TV series. The TV show proved to be just as popular as its predecessor. When the series ended in 1957, despite attempts at cartoons, novels, films, and comic books, the series never returned to its original popularity. Instead, the mysterious masked man and his faithful friend, Tonto, became the stuff of legends. Many people still recognized the series' catchphrases, such as "Hi yo, Silver! Away!" However, for many decades, the show seemed to become a nostalgic American relic.

"The Lone Ranger" is as distinctively American as apple pie or baseball, mixing aspects of superhero stories with the lawlessness of the Old West. The Lone Ranger is a masked vigilante, dedicating his life to a strict moral code. Above anything else, the Lone Ranger values nobility, compassion, and justice. He roams the landscape of the untamed West on his horse, Silver, aiming to bring order to a wild society. Tonto rides at the Lone Rangers side. The enigmatic and stoic Native American warrior also lives by a noble moral code.

In 2002, Columbia Pictures decided to rescue the Lone Ranger, Tonto, and Silver from the dusty vault of nearly forgotten TV shows. Over the next decade, the project would go through many different stages of development, sometimes grinding to a halt entirely. By 2007, Walt Disney Pictures had acquired the project, with Jerry Bruckheimer producing. Next year, fans learned that Johnny Depp would be portraying Tonto. In 2010, Gore Verbinski became the film's official director, winning out over Jonathan Mostow and Mike Newell. Even with details falling into place, budgetary issues and scheduling concerns meant that the project continued to languish. Finally, in late 2011, Walt Disney Pictures shared a release date. Eager fans could officially mark their calendars for early July of 2013.

An official trailer became available online in 2012. This was a decade after Hollywood first announced the idea for the film. The trailer does not give away specifics of the plot, but it offers a sneak peek at the overall tone and mood of the movie. As many fans expected, the 2013 version of "The Lone Ranger" is a sleek, contemporary update. While the original 1930s version focused on hearty patriotism, the new version turns the Lone Ranger into a modernized action star. The latest version will feature bullet time and other technological feats that the radio show's original fans could never have visualized.

The creators of the original series aimed the show at children. Although many adults quickly became fans of the Lone Ranger's exploits, the radio show and TV series both featured a family-friendly wholesomeness. Verbinski seems to be adding a little more edginess to the story. Since the film is produced by Walt Disney Pictures, it will likely still be suitable for older children. At the same time, Verbinski is clearly hoping to appeal to slightly more mature audiences. The trailer features a dark, sophisticated color palette and the kind of epic, battle scenes that appear in movies from "The Matrix" (1999) to "The Dark Knight" (2008). Just as many aspects of the original series reflected the patriotic and wholesome culture of the time, Verbinski is updating the story for a contemporary audience.

In addition, Verbinski is fleshing out the Lone Ranger's enigmatic backstory. The Lone Ranger's actual name is a topic of much debate, but in the 2013 version, viewers will finally learn how the masked man came to roam the deserts. Portrayed by Armie Hammer, the Lone Ranger even has a name: John Reid.

The Ranger's origin story is not the only thing that is changing. Instead of his signature blue shirt and crimson kerchief, the Lone Ranger has received a style update that brings him into the 21st century. He now sports a sleek black suit. Tonto has also moved beyond his role as a sidekick. His muted and quiet outfit has transformed into a dramatic and eye-catching ensemble, complete with an avian headdress and stark white face paint. In the trailer, Tonto gets just as much screen time as the Lone Ranger, suggesting that his role has expanded in this modern update.

Despite all these changes, Verbinski seems to be keeping some nostalgic aspects of the original series. The Lone Ranger's iconic domino mask and white cowboy hat remain the same. In the trailer, Tonto refers to the Lone Ranger as "kemosabe," harking back to one of the original series' most famous catchphrases. While fans will have to wait until the summer of 2013 to truly understand Verbinski's vision, all the signs so far point to a film that brings the Lone Ranger into the modern world without leaving the Old West behind.