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The Lone Ranger

The Lone Ranger and Superman continue to dance in the bizarre clutch of American popular culture.

In 1978, the world believed a man could fly after the release of Superman: The Movie, and just a few years later 1981 saw The Legend of The Lone Ranger shot in the same soft focus style. Just to prove the odd connection between the two characters, the WB found a hit last year with Smallville and now we've got The WB's Tigerbeat-cast version of The Lone Ranger. The main difference between now and the last time these two emerged on the scene is that the Lone Ranger movie was the good one this time around.

As it starts, we ride into town with a young law student, Luke Hartman, rolling into a tiny little Texas town called Dallas. Right away he stumbles upon a bunch of your run-of-the-mill ruffians manhandling a beautiful squaw, Alope. He tries to break things up, claiming one of his law books contains a hidden gun.

Before his bluff backfires on him things are broken up, and while he checks on Alope's condition, Luke is knocked down by a Bruce Lee-style leaping kick from her brother, Tonto. At this point, I figured we were looking at some bizarre cross between The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance and Kung Fu, but things got better from there.

Luke drops in a week early on his brother Harmon, a shopkeeper and a Texas Ranger. After the requisite "Governments make laws, Men make justice" conversation, Harmon heads out after some Regulators with Luke following against his brother's wishes.

This gives us a chance to cut back to Dallas to meet Harmon's hardworking wife and her superhot friend, Emily, who is also the editor of the town paper, setting up some wacky Reporter/Secret Identity hijinks if this is ever picked up as a series.

Back by the campfire Luke discovers he is a natural with a six shooter, but it does him and the others no good when they are double crossed by Kansas City, one of the rangers, who leads the Regulators back to the camp for a massacre. Luke survives and is found by Tonto, who buries the Rangers and brings the injured Luke back to his tribe. Predictably Luke is nursed back to health by Alope, vows vengeance, goes on a visionquest that brings him his spirit guide, Silver, and learns the ways of the Apache. He is given a mask made from his dead brother's vest by shaman Kulakinah (supercool Wes Studi) so that he may scare evil men, in a speech just next door to the classic "Superstitious and cowardly lot" chestnut.

The Masked Man gets some supplies from his brother's store but is seen by his nephew and sister-in-law. Silver stops him from killing Kansas City but in a surprise moment for an obvious pilot, Kansas City is eventually dispatched, robbing us of a great reccurring villain. Luke decides to stay in Dallas instead of returning to Boston, he accepts that he is a Lone Ranger and Tonto accepts that Luke is his Kemosabe.

Is it an instant classic? No. Is it fun? Yes.

Instead of saddling the pretty cast with period dialogue, The Lone Ranger pulls a Butch and Sundance and lets our heroes speak in the idiom of the day. The idea of a Lone Ranger who offhandedly refers to Tonto as "man" appeals to me. All the elements are there to make this a fun Western series. There's a good looking cast and enough subplots to sustain at least one season just from this one pilot.

Chad Michael Murray (from Gilmore Girls and Dawson's Creek) makes his Brad Pitt wanna-be qualities work both as the good boy Luke and the avenging Masked Man. If the show is picked up, the main plot line should be the struggle between the civilized law student of Luke and the uncivilized Lone Ranger, with a girl for each. A perfect Betty and Veronica situation.

Part of me really wants this to get picked up as a series but the other part of me is sure that they'll screw it up even worse than they have with Smallville. Overall it was a fun two hours and hopefully there'll be more to come.

Jordan Rosa

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