Is 'The Lone Ranger's' Plot Recycled?

The Johnny Depp/Armie Hammer Western bears a striking resemblance to 1998's 'The Mask of Zorro.'
'The Lone Ranger's' Armie Hammer with 'The Mask of Zorro's' Antonio Banderas   |   Disney; Courtesy Everett Collection
The Johnny Depp/Armie Hammer Western bears a striking resemblance to 1998's 'The Mask of Zorro.'

If you are one of the few who saw The Lone Ranger last weekend, it’s entirely possible that you were struck with the feeling that it all seemed a bit familiar — and not because it revolved around Johnny Depp in makeup. Again.

If you are, like me, a fan of 1998’s The Mask of Zorro — the enduring pop confection that starred Antonio Banderas, Anthony Hopkins and the incandescent Catherine Zeta Jones — you might’ve noticed a few plot similarities between Zorro and The Lone Ranger. Like, the whole plot.

SPOILER ALERT: If you're interested in watching 'The Lone Ranger' and maintaining your sense of surprise, stop reading here... — Ed.

To wit: Both movies are about a man (in the case of The Lone Ranger, Armie Hammer’s John Reid; Zorro had Banderas’ Alejandro Murrieta) whose brother gets killed by a long-haired rogue (Ranger’s Butch Cavendish vs. Zorro’s Capt. Love) who has a thing for cannibalesque postmortem desecration (Cavendish likes to eat the hearts of men he’s killed, while Love prefers to store his victims’ severed body parts in water, occasionally sipping from that dead-body juice).

PHOTOS: The Lone Ranger and Tonto Through The Years

The rogue isn’t the film’s main villain, though: He works for an upstanding member of society (in Ranger, it’s Tom Wilkinson’s Cole; in Zorro it’s Stuart Wilson’s Don Rafael Montero) who has discovered a rich vein of precious metal (silver vs. gold) that no one else knows about, with which he intends to buy an item of vast importance (Ranger’s transcontinental railroad; all of Southern California in Zorro).

Oh, and both the rogue and the big bad guy meet their fates simultaneously when they’re crushed by a vehicle carrying the mined silver/gold, which then sends them tumbling to their doom.

While there are some other similarities — both heroes have horses with epic nicknames (Silver and Tornado), both heroes wear masks, etc. — those come from character and not plot. And it is worth noting that both The Mask of Zorro and The Lone Ranger were co-written by the writing team of Ted Elliot and Terry Rossio, who also wrote the Pirates of the Caribbean flicks.

Perhaps it's less onerous if you're "borrowing" from yourself.

E-mail: Marc.Bernardin@THR.com
Twitter: @marcbernardin