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The Lone Ranger
  • Composed by Hans Zimmer
  • Walt Disney Records / 2013 / 50m

It couldn’t go wrong – it just couldn’t go wrong.  Disney entered into guaranteed box office gold territory with The Lone Ranger, from the creative team behind Pirates of the Caribbean – director Gore Verbinski, 80s pop star MC Hammer – you can’t touch this! – and the most famous of Native American actors, Johnny Depp, taking a break from sitting in his teepee and being at one with the bald eagle.  Not only was the 1950s tv series still fresh in the minds of the film’s target audience of young teenage males – accountants are still struggling to count the vast box office receipts of the 1981 big-screen adventure The Legend of the Lone Ranger.  With the screenwriters’ ingenious idea of combining screwball comedy with vivid images of genocide, all the ingredients are there for this film to be a massive, unprecedented success.  I predict a hit of extraordinary proportions.

There was an unsettling period of one week in which no new movies appeared with music by Hans Zimmer, so it was reassuring indeed when his score appeared.  Originally the filmmakers had engaged the services of snooker player Jimmy White to write the score, but perhaps unsurprisingly that fell through, and Zimmer – who provided hugely popular accompaniment to the Pirates movies – was engaged.  It’s fair to say (perhaps regular readers may have picked up on this – as subtle as I have been in making the point) that Zimmer has been in something of a rut since the glorious Inception, but my hopes were high for this score – surely this time round he could write something playing to his strengths and provide something lighthearted – something fun – maybe, just maybe, something as good as his wonderful score to the otherwise-execrable Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End (I will pretend the fourth Pirates score didn’t happen for the purposes of this narrative).

Hans Zimmer

Hans Zimmer

The album opens with “Never Take Off the Mask”, and it’s immediately clear that the composer is picking up the same style he employed on Pirates.  He has claimed in various interviews that The Lone Ranger gave him an opportunity to write a “classic western score” but obviously he chose not to take that opportunity, because apart from the predictable Morricone homages (of which there are many – but no more than were in Pirates or Sherlock Holmes) this is very much the standard lighthearted Zimmer sound we’ve come to expect on Verbinski’s movies – which is no bad thing at all.

“Absurdity” introduces the theme for Tonto, and it’s a wonderful combination of Morricone/Leone-style fluttering winds with an off-kilter jig.  It’s full of electronics and old-school Media Ventures basslines, and is hugely entertaining.  Hardly “classic western”, but it’s Zimmer doing what he does so well in these comic-minded films – taking inspiration from a character and launching into a deliciously unsubtle portrait.  It often sounds silly when he does it in serious films, but he’s on safe ground here.  “Silver” presents the score’s central theme, a really lovely melody heard in this arrangement with a solo violin (and again with Morriconean flourishes running around it, particularly in the earlier sections) – the most memorable thing Zimmer’s written in a while, I think.

The expansive “Ride” is the only time the score really sounds like what most people would think of as “classic western”, and then only in its opening passages, which are like Morricone’s Once Upon a Time in the West crossed with Beltrami’s 3:10 to Yuma; then, a minute or so into the piece, a wonderful new melody soars forth like the sun rising over the distant horizon.  “You’ve Looked Better” is a much darker piece, fairly stark atmospherics painting a surprisingly vivid picture of suffering.  By contrast, “Red’s Theatre of the Absurd” is a lovely little diversion – it’s actually not far removed from the style of Zimmer’s score, but is the only surviving holdout from White’s original.  (Now I must confess that the original composer hired to score the film was actually Jack White, the popular tunesmith, and not Jimmy “The Whirlwind” White, housewives’ favourite.)

“The Railroad Waits for No One” is a nice piece of action music – big, brassy,always melodic, progressing at a breakneck speed, it’s vintage Zimmer in many ways and is great fun to hear.  There is an immediate contrast in “You’re Just a Man in a Mask”, a piece with far more serious intentions, one which proves to really be rather moving.  The action returns immediately in “For God and for Country”, a rollicking piece (that again turns fairly serious before it ends).

“Finale” is a bit of a surprise – well, a surprise if you haven’t read all the pre-release hype – it’s an amusing ten-minute mashup of the William Tell Overture with the familiar Zimmer power anthem style (apparently done by Geoff Zanelli rather than Zimmer himself – I guess that makes Zanelli the Lone Arranger).  I’m sure that if he were alive today, Rossini would be turning in his grave, but I think it’s very entertaining.  (And you can’t do The Lone Ranger without William Tell – how else would you explain to your children why ten to ten is “cowboy time”?)

There’s still another track to go (after all, it would hardly be natural for “Finale” to be at the end) – another corker, “Home”, which develops the lovely theme heard earlier in the second half of “Ride”.  The Lone Ranger is a very timely reminder that Hans Zimmer does remember how to have fun, and that on the right film he can still deliver.  It’s not as flat-out entertaining as At World’s End – few things are – but it’s a very pleasurable way of spending 50 minutes and has grown and grown on me as time has gone by.  Memorable tunes, a high sense of adventure, great fun, even parts that are pretty moving.  Hi ho Silver!

Rating: ****

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  1. AntonioE1778 on Friday 19 July, 2013 at 01:05

    Southall, Zimmer didn’t write the theme in “Silver”. It is from an Irish folk tune called After the Battle of Aughrim, just so you know. I really liked this score and found it highly entertaining. I think I liked it a bit more than you, though,

  2. Jason Farcone on Friday 19 July, 2013 at 01:56

    Have enjoyed everything I’ve heard from the score, above all (predictably), ‘Finale’. I actually got a big boost of self esteem when I realized William Tell from which it was derived was written by Rossini — AN ITALIAN — tho I was subconsciously aware of the melody like most, for whatever reason the thing just sounded uber GERMAN, and I don’t think I’ve ever really heard any classical music from an italian as awesome as Tell. and on that german note, this rendition in ‘Finale’ is far and away better than Zimmer’s rendition of Wagner’s ‘Ride of the Valkyries’ in Rango. Love the concluding track ‘Home’ as well. happy to see the high rating.

  3. Solaris on Friday 19 July, 2013 at 09:38

    “The lone Arranger” LOOOOL! :D

  4. ed on Friday 19 July, 2013 at 16:41

    It’s a score that is easiy accessible. Some of Zimmer’s scores tend to outstay there welcome once the central theme is established. It’s eclectic, with hints of ‘Rango’ and ‘Pirates: At World’s End’ (His use of ethnic instrumentation). The obvious Morricone homages are clearly evident – and it does, in part, as stated by Mr. Southall has a tint of Beltrami’s ‘3:10 to Yuma.’

    He is on a roll so far. Enjoyed ‘Man of Steel’ (in the minority here) and lapped this up immediately.

    Now that he has – supposedly – taken over ‘Spider-Man’ scoring duties from James Horner. It seems he wants a taste of every franchise on the radar.

  5. M.Reza on Sunday 21 July, 2013 at 13:06

    Thanks,
    Please write a review for “Copperhead” by Laurent Eyquem.

  6. Chris Caine on Monday 22 July, 2013 at 04:36

    An entertaining review. My favourite track is Home.
    Our reviews seem to be in agreement!

    Hi everyone. Check out more Zimmer reviews at Zinfo 2.0.

  7. Phill on Tuesday 17 December, 2013 at 03:36

    I like Hans Zimmer’s music, but it seems to me that he is “taking inspiration” from other composers with increasing frequency. He takes signature melodies and then just fills them out with his own generic sound. It was cute for a while, but I’m starting to think he’s run out of ideas.

  8. Tobyyyy on Tuesday 14 January, 2014 at 10:08

    I think that this film score as a whole is very good (even if the best piece for me ‘finale’ wasnt by Zimmer) and shows that Hanz has still got something (although this appears to be very little) left in him. Hopefully someone else will come aong soon to take the work load off of Zimmer so he can concentrate more on project which mean something to him rather than sending out any old power anthem to any old film as when his work is good, such as this film, inception or POTC3, it is often very good

  9. Edmund Meinerts on Tuesday 14 January, 2014 at 14:02

    It’s funny you say that, Toby (yyyyy?), about Zimmer concentrating more on projects that mean something to him…He really, really did NOT want to score this film and only did it out of a favor to Gore Verbinski. That it turned out so enjoyable compared to his “pet projects” of the year (Man of Steel, 12 Years a Slave) just shows that he needs to stop taking himself so goddamn seriously, as it would seem he produces the best music when he puts in the least amount of effort.

    Then again, the more likely thesis is that Geoff Zanelli did the bulk of this score.

  10. Tobyyyy on Thursday 6 February, 2014 at 14:15

    hmmm interesting point, might be nice to hear what Zanelli does on a solo movie project

  11. Brendan Cochran on Thursday 29 May, 2014 at 14:45

    “I’m sure that if he were alive today, Rossini would be turning in his grave, but I think it’s very entertaining. ” The absolutely best line in this entire review :P Well said James!