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Tonto - Lone Ranger = Good Movie

Two Against the World
Two Against the World
Wikimedia Commons

I should have been a theoretical mathematician. This is such a simple equation: A - B = C. C is what you want, a good movie. It is not just the Lone Ranger -- well, maybe not him exactly -- but a host of other characters, whose elimination would not have been mourned. There are some bad hombres in this rendition of a classic American duo. But then, without them there would not have been a movie. Applied mathematics is frustrating. Naturally, I can say what I will. There is no one left to listen, the jury is out, and you either saw the flick or not, liked it or not, formed an opinion or not. Lately, I have been trying to catch up on movies released in the last few years. About this particular one, made on location in New Mexico and Utah, there is not much more to say other than it contains probably the best version of Tonto ever. Other than that, the only thing I can add is that the people who made this film did not have me in mind. I cannot stomach the action sequences. That is not much criticism, I admit, but it will have to suffice.

In the 19th century, the railroads were considered by many to be an embodiment of evil. Having resided next to Walden Pond, writing in 1854, Henry David Thoreau felt disgusted by a nearby railroad. His complaint, that to travel thirty miles by rail required a fare equal to a full day's wages, represented the widespread sentiment that railroads were steeped in greed. He was not enchanted by train whistles that reminded him of screaming hawks, or the way in which the "iron horse" caused the earth to tremble. But at the time, Thoreau had deliberately turned his back on civilization, not content to be a manufacturer of pencils, a business that allowed him the means to experiment with the unknown. The men building the Transcontinental Railroad in the film, as in real life, just happened to be the type who got the job done. They were egotistical to a fault. How the pristine Jeffersonian vision that looked westward to fulfill a gigantic yearning shared and nurtured by our forefathers turned into such a nightmare of massive profits, based on the wringing of every last drop of sweat from foreign labor, pilfering the hard-earned cash of passengers, and bilking investors out of their life savings, is a story in and of itself.

Tonto, fictitious but deeply entrenched in the American psyche, lived through much. He saw and experienced firsthand the gradual intrusion of White Might. Every so often he is in a position to kill a White over the loss of his village. But something always prevents him from sinking to a level lower than anything Hammurabi imagined. Life for life, okay, but even this simple, ancient code, got twisted, in reality and on screen, into grisly, pointless massacres. Killing begets more killing, that is a fact, while the actual culprits, smart and pitiless, slip away. This movie was based on great historical substance, entailing Comanches, broken treaties, the Cavalry, Chinese workers, and the faithful few who journeyed west to live according to standards that, it was presumed, reached too high, too heavenward, for the east. That was then. Today, the West is a political, economic, and social puzzlement. Road rage, reckless gun-play, and petty misunderstandings that get blown out of proportion, and become way too personal way too fast are a negative constant. The West is also being fracked to death below and showered with chem trails above. No one knows what pours through the faucet, except that it comes from a treatment plant. It harvests an impressive array of commodities, some precious, hundreds of miles from the midwest bread basket. People know what ears of corn are for that grow in vast fields. But what about hundreds of square miles of just plain dirt? I, for one, will not bother to find out. In the north, people stay home when it is cold. In the south, they do the same in the heat. But in the West, people stay home -- unless they have to venture forth. But hope for that better life has never been fully extinguished. It is Tonto's mission to mold the character of another naive, dreaming easterner into a credible force for good.

Incidentally, mining is pertinent to any worthwhile discussion of The Lone Ranger (2013). Silver, commonly known as "the other metal," is not just the name of a rather scene-stealing horse. It is pitted in the movie against the blood of Native Americans, shed on its account. This actually happened due to the yellow metal on the East Coast as well as in the Black Hills. Today, environmentalists battle miners every single day. If nothing else, the West has areas of unearthly, natural beauty that some of our greatest artists have tried in vain to capture in photographs and paintings. They are worth preserving. To be honest, for me, it is the weather. Otherwise, I would not stay. It is also worth noting that in this movie there are spellbinding visuals. About that aspect, in New Mexico, as well as Utah, no one can argue. There is ugliness, too. But it comes not from mines and pipelines so much as the human heart, fertile soil indeed, distributed in equal amounts, to the good, the bad, and the ugly.