Watch: Johnny Depp gets serious for action-heavy ‘Lone Ranger’ trailer

Hi-yo, Silver, indeed.

Disney is betting big on “The Lone Ranger” for next summer, and based on the first trailer that just premiered on “The Tonight Show” when Armie Hammer appeared last night, they’re sparing no expense in an effort to make this work.

Gore Verbinski and Johnny Depp made Disney a mountain of cash, something like three billion dollars over the course of three films together.  I wonder how much longer Verbinski is going to make this sort of film, this scale of film.  I think he’s got a real voice as a filmmaker, and I want to see him try his hand at the esoteric, the small, the personal.

That’s not to say this is purely going to be an empty experience, though. I like the opening narration in the trailer, someone talking about the change that the railroad is going to bring to the west.  I like that Verbinski is building this lush, opulent world and contrasting it with what looks like fairly classic Western movie imagery.

What I find most interesting about the trailer is Johnny Depp’s Tonto, which I expect will be one of next summer’s most hotly debated performances.  The voice he’s doing in the little bit we hear from him in the trailer is a very stereotypical movie “Injun,” which seems like an odd choice considering how much we’ve heard about how Depp wants his performance to make Tonto into more of a hero than we’ve seen in the past.  Voice aside, though, the rest of what we see here fits that description, and that’s a big difference from the Captain Jack character that Depp and Verbinski made so iconic.  I always felt like Captain Jack was just sort of lurching his way through life, a blessed fool, only occasionally competent.  Tonto looks like a badass, and that’s something we haven’t seen from Depp in a long time.

One of the questions that has to be keeping everyone at Disney up at night is “do today’s kids know what a Western is?”  It’s not like they have them as part of their regular cinematic diet.  This morning, before school, I showed the trailer to both of my kids, and if their reaction counts for anything, Disney probably shouldn’t worry.  They loved the look of the action, and they are already fixated on Tonto, curious to see more of him.  They immediately wanted to know when we’re going to see the movie, which is about as good a reaction to a trailer as any company could hope for.

We’ll know if the gamble pays off next summer, when “The Lone Ranger” rides into theaters July 3, 2013.