While the first ever screening of Monsters University was the big highlight of today’s Walt Disney presentation at CinemaCon, it wasn’t all that the studio had in store for the audience in The Colosseum in Las Vegas’ Caesar’s Palace. The studio also showed off a full 20 minutes of action-packed footage from Gore Verbinski’s The Lone Ranger, which, in addition to the recently-released trailer, makes the film look like it could be one of the biggest surprise hits of the summer season.
Set up by Verbinski, the first scene is set shortly after John Reid (Armie Hammer) and Tonto (Johnny Depp) have met for the first time. John is heading home from law school when he gets caught up in a prison break on a train, as a group of outlaws try to break out the evil Butch Cavendish (William Fichtner). Unfortunately, Reid trying to do the right thing gets in the way of Tonto’s plans for revenge against Cavendish, and after a series of events the two men end up getting manacled together.
As the footage begins, John and Tonto are standing on top of the train, which seems to be without an engineer, and notice that the rail is actually unfinished. While Tonto just wants to jump off and get away, John refuses, saying that he is unwilling to sacrifice the lives of all of the people on board. Each one grabbing the chain that ties them together, they get into a tugging match that ends when one of the outlaws emerges and interrupts them. John and Tonto react to this turn of events by running at and clotheslining the outlaw… but this victory is short-lived, as they quickly run into another criminal who has two pistols trained on them. John raises his hands in the air in surrender, but his hands end up getting caught on a mail hook that lifts him and Tonto off the train and away from the gunman. The duo swings around on the pole back to the train and Tonto catches the outlaw they clotheslined between his legs, throwing him through one window of the train and having him crash the opposite side. Tonto then lands back on the train, but John is left hanging off the side, his new "friend" pulling him up by the chain that connects them.
When they are both back on top of the train, the second outlaw once again corners them, this time with a rifle. John puts up his dukes, goading the criminal to fight like a man, saying that he did a bit of boxing in law school. Unfortunately, this approach only ends up with John getting hit in the face with the butt of the shotgun. Just as the outlaw is about to shoot them, we see a whip wrap around his ankle and pull him off the train – revealing that John’s brother Dan (James Badge Dale) and his crew of rangers have come to the rescue.
Dan jumps on to the train with Tonto and John and they race to the front engine, trying to detach the cars so that the passengers don’t get hurt. Tonto goes under the train to do so, but this accidentally leaves John and Tonto on the speeding engine, separated from Dan. The track ends and the train crashes, sending the duo flying. They survive, but are terrified to see that the tipped over train is now sliding towards them. A piece of metal flies off of the locomotive and pierces the ground between the heroes, and luckily the train stops before it can crush them to death.
With their manacles snapped, Tonto begins to walk away, but John tries to stop him, saying that he has to take the Indian in. John tries to tackle his future partner, but ends up getting flipped in the process. Eventually John just grabs Tonto’s ankle and gets dragged along until finally Tonto is stopped by Dan and his posse on horseback.
Going back to town, Tonto is thrown in jail. With John standing outside the cell, we are introduced to Rebecca Reid (Ruth Wilson), Dan’s wife and John’s old flame. The two discuss how long it’s been since they’ve last seen each other – nine years – and Rebecca tells him that he never should have come back. Danny, Rebecca’s son, then comes in and announces that Dan and his group of rangers are going back to scout in Indian territory. John and Rebecca exit, and Danny is left watching Tonto pray in his cell, mysteriously flapping his arms like a bird and somehow getting more light to shine in. Tonto then quickly turns around and scares Danny away. Outside Dan tells John that they are going after Cavendish, needing to bring him to justice. Dan then deputizes his brother as a Texas Ranger and allows him to go with him, giving him his father’s badge.
As they ride, they see Silver, Tonto’s white horse, standing on a cliff, and Dan remarks to John that it’s a "spirit horse," a creature that will take you to "the other side."
In the second clip (which Verbinski set up as following an ambush that left all of the Texas Rangers in Dan’s posse - including John – dead) we see John wake up dazed and confused somehow perched on a tall wooden structure on top of a cliff in the middle of the desert with strange paint lines on his chin. After finding his way down from the structure, he comes across a camp where he finds some water – which he drinks with great thirst – and clothing that belongs to his brother and the other rangers.
He then notices that Tonto is a few feet away talking to his horse. John grabs a gun and tries to sneak up his future friend, but Tonto turns to him and says that if he wants to sneak up on an Indian he should do it from downwind. It’s then revealed that John actually died during the ambush, and that while Tonto tried to bury him with the rest of the rangers he was somehow still alive. John is then told that Silver has identified him as a "spirit walker" - one who has been to the other side and returned, one who cannot be killed in battle, to which Tonto says, "Horse definitely stupid."
Later that night, John and Tonto sit around a campfire, cooking a rabbit on a spit when a bunch of rabbits come hoping up. As they talk, Tonto tears some meat off and throws it to the bunnies, which hiss and reveal some insanely sharp teeth before diving for and devouring the meat and scampering off (further expanding the fantasy world that the film exists in). Tonto continues to explain the spirit world, saying that Cavendish is actually a Wendigo - a spirit that is messing with the fabric of nature – and that he was told in a vision that a spirit walker would help him on his quest to take down Cavendish (albeit he was disappointed that it was John that was selected and not Dan).
John then explains that he wants revenge against the man that killed his brother, and Tonto says that while the rangers rode out with eight men, he only dug seven graves – meaning that one of the rangers betrayed the others. Tonto then gives his new friend a mask, saying that he is better off staying dead. John is frustrated and flabbergasted by this news, leading Tonto to give him a hard slap across the face, eventually pointing to the feathered friend on his head and saying, "Bird angry." They then agree to work together to take down Cavendish and avenge Dan’s life, to which Tonto says, ""Justice is what I seek, Kemosabe."
The footage had an excellent balance of both humor and action, putting the movie firmly on my radar. The project had its fair share of problems getting made – facing budget issues before production even began – but the film looks legitimately epic and fun. Look for The Lone Ranger when it rides into theaters on July 3rd.
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