Reel Reviews

‘The Lone Ranger’

Audience:
L – limited adult audience, films whose problematic content many adults would find troubling

 

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Not your father’s masked man

The golden-age radio program that first had America asking, “Who was that masked man?” was a favorite with youngsters, as too was the popular television series it later spawned.

So parents may assume, going in, that “The Lone Ranger” (Disney) – a big-screen attempt to provide an answer to that now 80-year-old question – is a family-friendly project geared to kids. Alas, for a variety of reasons, especially the film's treatment of religion, such an assumption would be dead wrong.

This eccentric and overlong reinterpretation of the familiar story centers not on the crime-fighting frontier hero (Armie Hammer) of the title, but on his faithful Native American companion, Tonto (Johnny Depp). When we first encounter Depp’s whimsical Tonto, he's an elderly man living, inexplicably, within a 1930s diorama of the Wild West.

Viewers are invited to feel their first enjoyable shiver of revisionist superiority as they observe that the display case holding Tonto labels him “The Noble Savage.” Oh, those insensitive Depression-era lug heads!

The chance visit of a boy in a Lone Ranger outfit provokes a stream of reminiscences from Tonto, during which he recounts the circumstances that initially brought him together with lawyer-turned-lawman John Reid, his future “Ke-mo sah-bee.” He also recalls their struggle to capture Butch Cavendish (William Fichtner), a viciously depraved outlaw one of whose crimes was to have a life-altering impact on Reid.

Set primarily amid the race to complete the transcontinental railroad -- with Tom Wilkinson playing train company executive Latham Cole, the shady driving force behind that effort – director Gore Verbinski’s action comedy offers a warning about the corrupting influence of greed. It also portrays, at least in accurate outline, the victimization of native peoples that resulted from the headlong pursuit of wealth and industrial expansion.

But one of the aspects of European culture that gets trounced is Christianity, with believers shown up as either weaklings or hypocrites.

Early on, one of the former, a Presbyterian church lady, invites Reid to pray with her during a train ride. In response, Reid holds up the book he's been reading on the journey – philosopher John Locke’s 1689 text “Two Treatises of Government” – and identifies it as “my Bible.”

Later, a cavalry officer who is responsible for massacring Indians repeatedly invokes God while ordering his troops into battle. And Cole, whose villainy becomes increasingly obvious, offers a smarmy grace that shows he uses God to his own purposes. By contrast, and in keeping with Hollywood’s current norms, Native American spirituality and values are generally glorified.

Add to these factors Cavendish’s taste for human flesh, the played-for-laughs proclivity on the part of one of his accomplices for wearing women’s clothes and a series of scenes in a brothel, and the resulting mix does not recommend itself for youthful – or even casual adult – consumption.

The film contains a negative treatment of Christian faith, considerable action violence with some gore, mature themes, including cannibalism and prostitution, a transvestite character, brief scatological imagery and humor and at least one crass term. The Catholic News Service classification is L – limited adult audience, films whose problematic content many adults would find troubling. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG-13 – parents strongly cautioned. Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13.

By John Mulderig, Catholic News Service

‘Pacific Rim’

Audience:
A-III – adults

 

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Godzilla Returns

Anyone with a hankering for a 21st-century Godzilla movie, or anxiously awaiting the next “Transformers” installment, will cheer the opening of “Pacific Rim” (Warner Bros.).

The only major content pitfalls are intermittent bad language and the genre’s usual blind spot concerning the destruction and suffering endured prior to someone or something saving the day. Unnerving rather than morally inappropriate, the action is too intense for children.

In the very near future, a breach at the bottom of the Pacific Ocean becomes a portal for alien monsters redolent of Godzilla, the mutant marauder of 1950s Japanese cinema. The first wave of Kaiju, Japanese for giant beast, attacks San Francisco, Manila and Mexico’s Baja Peninsula. The world’s armies eventually repel them using tanks and aircraft, but it’s obvious a new kind of weapon is needed. So nations band together to construct huge robots called Jaegers, after the German word for fighters. Humans operate the machines, yet to fully control them the minds of two pilots must be melded through a neural bridge.

In an early scene, Raleigh Becket (Charlie Hunnam) and his brother Yancy (Diego Klattenhoff) take their Jaeger into battle off the coast of Alaska. When they disobey orders and rescue a fishing vessel, their mission goes tragically awry and Raleigh quits the pilot corps. Five years later, world leaders decide to decommission the Jaegers and build a wall to protect mankind.

The soldier in charge of the Jaeger program, Stacker Pentecost (Idris Elba), enlists Raleigh’s help in a last-ditch plan to stop the increasingly destructive incursions using the four remaining robots. From a Hong Kong base, Chinese, Russian and Australian teams, along with Raleigh and an untested female pilot Mako Mori (Rinko Kikuchi), try to seal the breach with a nuclear warhead.

The fate of everyone on earth rests in the hands of an intrepid band. Comic relief is provided by Dr. Newton Geiszler (Charlie Day), a whiny scientist who attempts a mind meld between a human and a Kaiju. But “Pacific Rim” is primarily interested in our fascination with monsters, machines and mayhem.

Using the selfless heroism of the principal combatants to highlight the strength of the human spirit constitutes action-movie boilerplate. A slightly less common theme is the solidarity exhibited by the peoples and governments of the world when a common enemy surfaces. Undoubtedly, mankind coming together and using technology to thwart an alien invasion is a positive thing. In reality, however, it's much more probable that men will use killing machines like Jaegers against one another. We may flock to summer movies to forget about real-life problems for a short time, but there's no escaping the fact that this scenario is more frightening than computer-generated Kaiju rising from a virtual sea.

The film contains much intense but bloodless sci-fi violence between robots and alien creatures, brief sexual banter and occasional crude and profane language. Possibly acceptable for older teens.

The Catholic News Service classification is A-III – adults. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG-13 – parents strongly cautioned. Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13.

By John P. McCarthy Catholic News Service

Monthly List of Recent Film Ratings (June)

A
Across the Divide, A-II (no rating)
Admission, L (PG-13)
After Earth, A-III (PG-13)
Amour, L (PG-13)
The Awakening, A-III (R)
B
The Big Wedding, O (R)
Bullet to the Head, O (R)
Bully, A-III (PG-13)
C
The Call, O (R)
The Croods, A-I (PG)
D
Dead Man Down, O (R)
Dream House, L (PG-13)
E
Epic, A-I (PG)
Evil Dead, O (R)
F
Fast & Furious 6, L (PG-13)
42, A-III (PG-13)
G
G.I. Joe: Retaliation, A-III (PG-13)
A Good Day to Die Hard, L (R)
The Great Gatsby, A-III (PG-13)
H
The Hangover Part III, L (R)
Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters, O (R)
The Host, A-III (PG-13)
I
Identity Thief, L (R)
The Incredible Burt Wonderstone, L (PG-13)
Iron Man 3, A-III (PG-13)
J
Jack the Giant Slayer, A-II (PG-13)
K
Killer Elite, A-III (R)
L
The Last Exorcism Part II, L (PG-13)
M
Movie 43, O (R)
Mud, A-III (PG-13)
O
Oblivion, A-III (PG-13)
Olympus Has Fallen, L (R)
The Oogieloves in the Big Balloon Adventure, A-I (G)
Oz the Great and Powerful, A-II (PG)
P
Pain and Gain, O (R)
Peeples, O (PG-13)
Phantom, A-III (R)
The Place Beyond the Pines, L (R)
Q
Quartet, A-III (PG-13)
R
The Reluctant Fundamentalist, A-III (R)
Restless Heart, A-II (no rating)
S
Scary Movie 5, O (PG-13)
Skyfall, A-III (PG-13)
Something Borrowed, L (PG-13)
Star Trek Into Darkness, A-III (PG-13)
T
21 and Over, O (R)
Tyler Perry's Temptation: Confessions of a Marriage Counselor, A-III (PG-13)
W
Warm Bodies, A-III (PG-13)