‘The Lone Ranger’ rides during the Super Bowl pre-game show

Mark Deming
Movie TalkFebruary 4, 2013
Johnny Depp and Armie Hammer in 'The Lone Ranger'
Johnny Depp and Armie Hammer in 'The Lone Ranger'

He can outrun an explosion, escape from a gunman on a moving train with nothing more than a bullwhip, stare down a villain at 90 miles per hour, and rescue children and damsels in distress. Has Indiana Jones returned? Nope, it’s a another hero in a hat, and this one wears a mask. He's “The Lone Ranger."

Watch the Super Bowl pre-game spot for 'The Lone Ranger':

Disney has a bit of a marketing challenge ahead of them with their upcoming reboot of “The Lone Ranger” – they’re dealing with a character who hasn’t been a major cultural presence for a few decades, and while Johnny Depp is top billed in the movie, he’s barely recognizable as Tonto, wearing a elaborate facial make-up that goes beyond Tim Burton’s wildest dreams. So if Disney was going to make a major ad buy on the Super Bowl telecast, you can’t fault them for focusing tight on the target market.

CBS’s pre-game show was officially sponsored by “The Lone Ranger,” and the show kicked off with a montage that intercut bits and pieces from the movie with footage of the Baltimore Ravens and the San Francisco 49ers on the field, drawing an analogy between the Lone Ranger’s fight for justice with the battle for gridiron supremacy that was set to begin about an hour later. (Judging by the stuffed black bird on Tonto's head, it's pretty clear which team he's pulling for.)

If the opening montage didn’t offer a lot of insight into the film’s narrative, it delivered an impressive look at director Gore Verbinski’s visual style, as the Old West plains explode into flames, burning arrows hit settlers’ bungalows, armies on horseback charge into battle, Armie Hammer as the Lone Ranger handles a gun and distributes silver bullets with aplomb, and Johnny Depp as his faithful sidekick Tonto seems formidable and mysterious, telling the Ranger that sometimes good men must wear masks (this contrasted, of course, with the players donning their helmets).

A proper trailer arrived about thirty minutes later, and if it recycled a few of the more spectacular moments we’d already seen, it gave a better idea of the film’s grand scale approach – Monument Valley vistas John Ford could only dream of, the hero rearing back on his horse against the sunrise, some creepy looking bad guys, Tonto discovering the wounded Texas Ranger in the desert, the two men discussing their need to bring justice to the lawless and, and a spectacular stunt sequence on a moving train, which looked vertigo-inducing on a small screen and should be little short of amazing in theaters.

In short, Disney gave us a glimpse of a Lone Ranger who is tough, principled, and heroic. Just the sort of hero a football fan can celebrate in between chicken wings. We’ll have to wait until July 3 to truly see how well folks respond, but it was a decidedly better introduction to “The Lone Ranger” than the teaser trailer that has been running in theaters.