Yesterday, at the massive San Diego Comic Con (SDCC), Disney gave about 6,000 attendees a surprise early look at one of today's most anticipated film projects—both within and outside of Indian country—The Lone Ranger, in which Johnny Depp plays the familiar Native sidekick Tonto to Armie Hammer's Lone Ranger.
For American Indians, the fact that Depp is portraying a Native American in such a major movie has been a topic of fascination and much debate. From the reports out of SDCC, it seems, the footage will likely add fuel to the fire for those who aren't happy with the situation. Depp reportedly had one line in the clip:
“There come a time, Kemosabe … when good man must wear mask.”
There has been much talk of a more sensitive and complex portrayal of Tonto; apparently, though, Tonto will speak in the same, well, Tonto-speak of all his previous incarnations.
Here are some more comments from the press on hand.
Entertainment Weekly: "Those looking for a darker take on The Lone Ranger will be pleased by the intense tone and focus on action over humor. Critics of Depp portraying a Native American may not like him dropping articles out of his speech, but others may have complained about if he didn’t. So that’s a break-even; there didn’t appear to be anything disrespectful about the voice that might provoke more complaints than the ones already out there."
Associated Press: "The brief clip hinted at [Tonto's] craftiness, with one scene showing him riding beneath a speeding train."
CinemaBlend.com: "Depp's look as Tonto is just as strange as you think, and in one line of voiceover dialogue ... he's speaking in a kind of broken English that I'm sure has already made Native American groups furious (I'm willing to withhold judgment to see how it works out, though it still seems dicey)."
MovieTalk (Yahoo): "atop the plains we spy a beefy man in a black suit, black mask, and white hat. Our hero, Armie Hammer. Next to Armie's Ranger stands his kemosabe Tonto, played with pageantry and poise by a shirtless Johnny Depp with a crow on his head. The dynamic duo getty-up after the train (sorry, no "Heigh Ho, Silver"). ... Then we flash to Tonto somehow appearing underneath the train, looking like he's ready to pounce. And boy do the fans in Hall H seem ready for Johnny to pounce."