Parents need to know that The Lone Ranger is a reboot of the famous TV show and film serials about a lawman-turned-vigilante and his trusty Native American sidekick, Tonto. Only in Pirates of the Caribbean director Gore Verbinski's take, Tonto (Johnny Depp) isn't merely a secondary character -- he's the story's guide, catalyst, and narrator. There's a surprising amount of violence -- not just the body count, but also persistent references to cannibalism (including a scene of a man's heart being cut out and eaten, albeit partially in shadow) and rape. (Some of the scary scenes are interrupted by flash-forwards, relieving the intensity, but things still get tense.) The language is mild, as is the sexuality (although one scene does take place in a brothel, and a supporting player is a madam), and the drinking is done by adults. A kid holds a gun to a man who's threatening his mother's life, and the lesson that sometimes the law can't provide true justice takes a bit of discussion. On the plus side, Depp has said he is in fact of Native American heritage and had the support of several Native American groups in his portrayal of Tonto.
- Families can talk about the violence in The Lone Ranger. Is there more, less, or the amount you expected in the movie? What is the violence motivated by? What is its impact?
- Johnny Depp, who's partially of Native American heritage, and Disney reached out to the Native community to make sure that his portrayal of Tonto wasn't offensive. Do you think they succeeded?
- Discuss the history of the railroad, the idea of manifest destiny, and why the country's Westward expansion was so pivotal in the decades after the Civil War. Talk about the facts that there really were many Chinese men involved in the making of the railroad and that the history of the Native Americans in the late 19th century is one of death and loss of land.
- This adventure is an origin story for the Lone Ranger of television lore. What do you think of the story line? Has it sparked or renewed your interest in the TV show?