The Lone Ranger certainly had a troubled production history, one involving (unnecessarily?) massive budgets, mystical werewolves, being canceled, and being rewritten, retooled, and relaunched. Of course, plenty of movies with troubled productions and/or werewolves have gone on to be huge successes. Jaws, for example, was a notorious train-wreck of a shoot, but the movie ended up being the epitome of box office success in 1975.
Still, many more troubled movies do not go on to be huge successes, and The Lone Ranger is just the most recent example (the movie could end up losing $150 million or more). But how? How did a film from the folks who brought you Pirates of the Caribbean - a franchise that has earned $3.72 billion worldwide - flop so terribly? Was it because the movie itself was bad? Not so, according to the cast and filmmakers.
Yahoo! Movies (UK & Ireland) recently interviewed director Gore Verbinski, producer Jerry Bruckheimer, and stars Johnny Depp and Armie Hammer about the very bad reviews the film has gotten in the U.S. (it's currently at 27% on Rotten Tomatoes), and they all but laid the film's box office blame at the feet of the critics.
According to Armie Hammer:
"This is the deal with American critics. They've been gunning for our movie since it was shut down the first time. And I think that's probably when most of the critics wrote their initial reviews. [...] They tried to do the same thing with to ‘World War Z,' it didn’t work, the movie was successful. Instead they decided to slit the jugular of our movie.”
It seems strange to bring up World War Z as another example of critics trying to destroy a film based on their preconceived notions of it, especially since that film received fairly solid reviews (almost 40% higher than The Lone Ranger on RT) and has grossed nearly half a billion dollars at the box office. A better example would be, say, John Carter, which - despite its critical reputation - is actually considered by many to be underrated.
Johnny Depp felt that American critics prejudged the film, as well:
“I think the reviews were written when they heard Gore [Verbinksi] and Jerry [Bruckheimer] and me were going to do 'The Lone Ranger.' Then their expectations of it that, you know, it must be a blockbuster. I didn't have any expectations of that. I never do. Why would I?"
The answer: Probably because it cost blockbuster dollars to produce and market - $375 million dollars by some estimates. If it wasn't supposed to make blockbuster dollars, maybe it shouldn't have cost blockbuster dollars? Just a thought.
Jerry Bruckheimer said that The Lone Ranger is the sort of film that will have a critical revival in a few years:
"I think that they were reviewing the budget and not reviewing the movie. The audience doesn't care what the budget is. They pay the same amount to see the movie whether it cost a dollar or $20 million. [...] It's one of those movies that, whatever critics missed it this time, will re-review it in a few years and see that they made a mistake. [...] The critics keep crying for original movies. You make one, and they don't like [it], so what can I tell you?"
Bruckheimer's comment that the film is "original" seems a bit strange - when people say they want original content in their films, they don't typically mean they want a reboot of a property from a 1933 radio show that has previously been adapted into TV, movies, comic books, and just about every other storytelling medium multiple times.
Regardless, director Verbinski sort of echoed Bruckheimer's statement:
"Our movie is not a sequel, and it doesn't have giant robots and the Lone Ranger can't fly. I think we're counter-programming. So, if you want to see something different, come see the movie. It's odd to be given a lashing because of that."
But did the film really get a lashing because it was "different"? Or did critics just genuinely not enjoy the movie? After all, a number of people thought the film was a bit of a rip-off of the great Mask of Zorro movie from the 1990s starring Antonio Banderas - which, like Ranger, was written by Ted Elliot and Terry Rossio.
Obviously, it's not a shock to see the people who worked on a film defend it from its critics. It has to be pretty disappointing to put so much effort into making a movie, only to see it flop at the box office amid a myriad of scathing critiques.
What do you think, Screen Ranters? Was the critical drubbing that The Lone Ranger received undeserved? Drop us a line in the comments.
The Lone Ranger is in theaters now.
Follow me on Twitter @benandrewmoore.