Almost always, what will make a film better is the story. If you have a crappy story and great actors, you will still fail. If you don't have a good story and just have explosions, your movie will still fail. People nowadays are smarter than they seem. Hollywood execs think that we still want the 80's-90's explosive hoo-haa action flicks. We really want a great film that doesn't waste our time. This film wastes a lot of time. It tries to focus on too many plot points without caring for any one specific storyline. Since Johnny Depp was the reason we came to see the film, the Lone Ranger is put aside and now we have two stories we must sit through: Tonto's story and the Lone Ranger's story. Neither are straight forward. Both are convoluted.
Screenwriting 101 always taught me to start in the middle of the scene. The story starts at the very beginning with John Reid coming to the West and Tonto being an outlaw for some crime that no one knows about. Thirty minutes later, John Reid's brother dies. If we sped up thirty minutes and had the brother's death already happen, this film would have been better already. Instead of having the villain focus on silver, killing natives, wanting to marry, and wanting to become the richest man in the West, why don't we just focus on two, or even one of those plot points. I'll be okay with the silver story, or even the marriage story. Another useless scene is the brothel scene with Helena Bonham Carter. Of course she comes back in play later in the film, but her character and this scene has nothing to do with the film except telling the audience that the villain likes eating things and ivory is hard to find.
This is an origin story. However, this is an origin story that must focus on two characters, both with really bad back stories. This origin story also goes to show the mindset in Hollywood screenwriting today and has been for many years. Hollywood writers and directors feel that it is necessary to change the origin story of characters to have more of a surprise value. The Lone Ranger is around 70+ years old as a story and character. No kid in the demographic will know about the Lone Ranger's origin story, so just take the original origin of the Lone Ranger and put it in the movie. If no one knows the origin of the Lone Ranger, it is similar to what is shown in the movie, but Tonto is not in the first half. Tonto's opening scene is when he finds the Lone Ranger and the lone survivor of an ambush.
Keep with the original origin story and everything else will be set.
This movie was way too long. The last action sequence lasted about 20 minutes. The first action sequences lasted around 10-15 minutes. 30 minutes of the film was made up of exposition told by older Tonto. Then, of course we have an unnecessary Camanche/US Army battle that took up a nice 20 minutes of film.
Cut both action sequences in half, take out the unnecessary exposition of Tonto and the Camanche battle and you get a nice 84 minute film.
4. Make The Lone Ranger the Center of the Story
Tonto was the real center of the story. The Lone Ranger was the sidekick. If you really wanted some A-list actor in this film, make the A-list actor the main character instead of the supposed sidekick.