SAN DIEGO - The final surprise of today's Disney panel at Comic-Con 2012 probably wasn't a total surprise to anyone in Hall H.  After all, this is the same place where Disney ended a panel with footage of Johnny Depp as Jack Sparrow on the set of "Pirates 4," and it's the same place Guillermo Del Toro made an appearance to announce a "Haunted Mansion" film that no one was aware of.  And of course, this is where Disney showed that test footage that kicked off the avalanche of anticipation that built to the release of "TRON: Legacy."  Disney knows the value of a Hall H moment, and they did their best to guarantee one this afternoon with the debut of the very first footage anywhere for "The Lone Ranger."

Much has already been written about the backstage drama for this movie, with a production delay while the budget was slashed and later reports that the budget was creeping back up during production anyway, but none of that ultimately matters if the film works.  Based on the four or five minutes they showed today, "The Lone Ranger" looks to be a lush, opulent take on the Western, focusing on the way the introduction of the railroad changed the power dynamic of the Old West.

What's immediately apparent is that Gore Verbinski and Johnny Depp aren't just doing "'Pirates' in the Old West," which is sort of what I expected.  Tonto certainly got his fair share of screen time in the short presentation we saw, and he struck me as very different than Sparrow.  By now, you've seen the first image of him in character, and that appears to be his look in every scene.  He seems hyper-competent, almost like a ghost in the way he handles himself.  He appears some very unusual places in the trailer, in the middle of action scenes, and while Sparrow is distinguished by that rolling liquid drunken quality to his mannerisms, Tonto is all about stillness and quiet.

There were a few quick shots of Armie Hammer as The Lone Ranger, but by far, the majority of the presentation focused on the world itself and the scale of some of the stunt sequences.  Since the film revolves around a battle for control of the railroads, it makes sense that many of the big action sequences seem to be set on trains, either in motion or off the rails, and it looks like Verbinski has some huge, ambitious stunt ideas he's playing with this time.

The iconic silver bullet made an interesting slow-motion appearance in the middle of the trailer, hurled from a train window by a young boy, and one can only assume caught by the Lone Ranger.  For a film that is still shooting and that will feature a fairly heavy amount of post-production effects work, the reel they showed was very finished, and it definitely has the visual wit and bombast that one expects from Verbinski.  It made for a exciting finish to an already-busy panel, and based on the crowd's vocal reaction to the footage, Disney's sizable investment in the film may yet pay off for them.

"The Lone Ranger" rides into theaters July 3, 2013.

A respected critic and commentator for fifteen years, Drew McWeeny helped create the online film community as "Moriarty" at Ain't It Cool News, and now proudly leads two budding Film Nerds in their ongoing movie education.