Does 'The Lone Ranger’ Remake Get the William Tell Overture Right?

Sunday, August 18, 2013 - 07:00 PM

The Lone Ranger The Lone Ranger (Walt Disney Pictures)

The Lone Ranger galloped back into theaters this summer, bringing both Tonto and the immortal theme music, the William Tell Overture, which turns up in a climactic train chase scene. But this isn’t the version familiar to generations who grew up on the 1930s radio serial or the 1950s television show. And it's certainly not one that opera buffs would recognize from Gioachino Rossini's opera.

As one might expect with a mega-budget revival, the William Tell Overture is heard in an enhanced, 10-minute arrangement by the film composer Hans Zimmer and his colleague Geoff Zanelli. Host David Garland presented the cue (called "Finale") Saturday night on Movies on the Radio and said, "it’s exciting in a way but ultimately it just doesn’t grab, at least not for me."

Much of Rossini's original score remains intact but Zimmer adds extra layers of orchestration and thematic material while slowing down the tempos. Garland speculates that the studio orchestra played to a click-track, ensuring that the tempo stays steady throughout the sequence. “Even though the orchestration will build, and we get that changing texture, we never have a changing tempo,” he said. “So the intended excitement doesn’t really grab us. You want the thing to speed up a little and slow down a little.”

Others found Zimmer's treatment more convincing. London’s Telegraph called it “rousing” and Scotland on Sunday praised the "hoof-stomping rendition." The website Filmtracks deemed it “one of the most spirited and interesting pieces of film music in years.”

Listen to the track here and tell us what you think in the comments box below:

And for comparison's sake, here’s the original "Lone Ranger" TV opening:

The Disney Studios also released a Future Cut remix of the overture, which layers in dance beats and other DJ effects. In an e-mail on Sunday, Garland said he began wondering why, “despite all the musical hubbub going on, the piece seemed to fall flat for me,” he wrote. “There are aspects of an exciting performance in 'Finale,' and it sounds sort of like a human performance--and probably a lot of human musicians were involved--but the effect is mechanical, inhuman, so it's unconvincing."

"The Lone Ranger," which stars Armie Hammer and Johnny Depp cost a reported $250 million, yet has seen disappointing box office numbers, so far making $80 million domestically.


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Comments [20]

Truman Hadley from Coachella, Ca

Absolutely Wonderful!

Sep. 21 2013 11:29 PM
C T Brown from New Jersey

Didn't see the movie because I don't like Johnny Depp's acting and the movie reviews weren't particularly favorable. However, I found that once you set aside the familiar, this version of the Rossini can be listened to. I like the new variations, the more imaginative orchestration, and the increased emphasis on the rhythms. It might be a little long in the middle, but that's in respect to the original. I would find it an acceptable concert piece, though I'd never be able to shed the thought of a "Hi Ho Silver!"

Aug. 24 2013 11:42 AM
Hinda from Brooklyn New York

There were sections of this 10-minute movie finale I enjoyed, and other sections which I didn't care for as much (too modern and gimmicky). i remember the original Lone Ranger TV show and also saw some earlier Lone Ranger movies which of course featured the William Tell Overture in more tradition arrangements. I'm not against modernization of classic pieces, but I do like consistency which the 2013 movie finale didn't really demonstrate.

Aug. 23 2013 01:10 PM
stan nemeth

John Hart who played the LOne Ranger series on TV was much better in the role who is never mentioned IN CRITICISM? WY NOT?

Aug. 23 2013 12:55 PM
Joseph Grasso from Brooklyn

No-one beats Toscanini and the NBC symphony orchestra rendition of the William Tell overture.

What was Hans Zimmer thinking?

Aug. 23 2013 12:48 PM
cliff barney from santa cruz

the movie version is a travesty

Aug. 22 2013 09:37 PM
Silversalty from Brooklyn

A slight segue ..

The Fears and Phobias of Famous People

Johnny Depp is terrified of clowns. Says Johnny, "There's something about the painted face, the fake smile. There always seems to be a darkness lurking under the surface, a potential for real evil."

I can't remember a film where Depp has been anything other than a clown. Caricature at best. It's been that long. He probably never looked in a mirror while playing Edward Scissorhands.

Aug. 21 2013 07:10 PM

Those aren't horses; they're elephants. Heavy metal with orchestral instruments.

Aug. 21 2013 01:07 AM
Horn Player from LI, NY

Reminds me of what the USSR dod to Shostakovich. However, Zimmer is no Shostakovich.

Aug. 20 2013 09:10 AM
Jordan Rab from Rio de Janeiro

Left me disappointed, like David Garland said. After all that relentless riding, my brain was saddle-sore. The rhythm pounded away, yes, but the music is supposed to be dominant, not the horses or the sound of hooves.
Certainly made me yearn for the good ol' days when Clayton Moore and Jay Silverheels captivated us to the accompaniment of Rossini's stirring music.

Aug. 19 2013 07:39 PM
Chris from Midtown NYC

Disney flattens out everything, story, characters, and now they've definitely done this music injustice. It's OK, but it's not thrilling and the whole [point is to be thrilling. The old TV show opening is right on.

Disney animated features are usually quite fun, but the live action films usually leave something to be desired. They don't take risks and therefore are boring. I was bored 2 minutes into this revision. Maybe it will be more exciting with the actual film.

Aug. 19 2013 02:55 PM
Eick from Hot Springs, AR

Atrocious. Old TV version was nothing to write home about, either, but it was just a 45 second jump. Why not have just used Rossini ?

Aug. 19 2013 12:11 PM
norman winkler from Bluffton, SC

Zimmer did an excellent job for the film. Music is all about theme and variations. Perhaps Mozart or Ravel would have given a more astounding rendition. On the other hand I'm glad Rachmaninoff didn't stop at variation 17.

Aug. 19 2013 11:55 AM
concetta nardone from Nassau

Let us not forget the Spike Jones version of the overture. Spike also had fun with the Poet and Peasant overture. We can all use a few laughs. Some of you might be too young, but Spike also had a tv show that was a real hoot.

Aug. 19 2013 09:51 AM
Concetta nardone from Nassau

Thanks Mr. Rothenberg for the comments about the full opera William Tell. I miss Gedda as well. Fine singer. I took my sons to see the film that came out in the 1970s and when the Lone Ranger is on horseback on the mountain cliff, the William Tell music started and we all cheered. It was a very good film. I heard the new film is a real "stronzata". If any of our writers have friends who speak Italian, ask what that means. QXR wants us to be civil. QXR does not mention about Italian being used. Disney has lost a lot of money on this one.

Aug. 19 2013 09:41 AM
David Shore from Congers NY

I don't understand the fuss! This is Movie-music designed to go with a visual. I think Zimmer did a good job with homage to the TV series music considering that a Disney audience may have minimal exposure to Rossini other than through the galloping phrases of this overture.
Obviously the length needed to suit the visual content and Zimmer's (movie-like) embellishments somewhat mandatory. I couldn't listen to the same diddy-dum phrasing for 10 miniutes either.
Didn't see the movie due to the bad press, but perhaps now I will.

Aug. 19 2013 08:55 AM
Joe Salerno from Texas, USA

This movie didn't get anything right about the Lone Ranger. Why expect the music to be any different?

Aug. 19 2013 08:46 AM
Richard from New Jersey

Good, but certainly NOT the original.
-The build at the beginning was too much
-Near the end, the added Improv was confusing
-Seemed like a REACH to get to the end and maybe allow for ending credits or similar
At times, seemed to be peaking, but then return to the basics of the original were also disturbing. I felt tired of it half way through, 10 min. is too long.

Aug. 19 2013 07:57 AM
Sanford Rothenberg from Brooklyn

On the plus side,both versions are in the correct key of E Major,with the trumpet fanfare which begins the Allegro Vivace section starting on B natural,as Rossini composed it.Obviously,the television version,due to time constraints,is greatly abridged.The movie version,which to its credit,concludes in E Major,ends up being something of a theme and variations,which would be disappointing to those expecting to hear the rousing finale section in a version closer to the original.P.S.-As I have written elsewhere on these pages,it would have been nice to have had "William Tell",overture and all,revived at the MET.A great opportunity to hear the pivotal tenor role of Arnold (Arnoldo in the Italian version)sung by Gedda and Pavarotti was sadly missed.

Aug. 19 2013 01:49 AM
Silversalty from Brooklyn

The remake was disappointing. Rather than sounding like music for a galloping cavalry charge rescue it seemed more like steady canter paced music akin to marching music for a cavalry's move to another secure fort.

I couldn't even listen through to the end of the piece. Hard to believe since any playing of the overture is, for me, like a shot of adrenalin, lifting my spirits and forcing a smile.

Aug. 18 2013 09:27 PM

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