Disney’s ‘The Lone Ranger’ could have been great. Instead, it’s a beautiful train wreck you might want to watch on mute. It’s a crowded mess of a movie that is more accurately named ‘Johnny Depp’s Tonto.’
The result? A box office bomb:
Just as Lone Ranger began rolling out in theaters July 3, Cowen & Co. analyst Doug Cruetz predicted a $100 million write-down for Disney. Now, box office experts and rival studio insiders tell The Hollywood Reporter that the loss could approach or even surpass $150 million based on final opening numbers, although they add that Disney likely can weather the storm thanks to summer box office hits Iron Man 3 and Monsters University.
First and foremost, you can’t have a movie titled ‘The Lone Ranger’ and then emasculate him to the point where Helena Bonham Carter’s Red Harrington (a brothel-owner and former ballerina) is better suited for the role. ‘The Lone Ranger’ took what should have been the story of a reluctant Ranger coming into his own and turned the character into a cartoonish klutz who sorta-kinda figures the hero thing out by the end of the movie. Johnny Depp is the star of the show, which makes one wonder how Disney would have moved forward with future installments had the film been more successful: “Come see this Lone Ranger trilogy featuring Armie Hammer, where’s he’s supposed to be the main hero but … he’s not.”
In what appears to have been an attempt to mask the fact that ‘The Lone Ranger’ was really about Tonto, the movie starts spending an unnecessary amount of time exploring themes, motifs and sub-plots that ultimately lead to an unfocused and unsatisfying experience. The expansive set pieces are great, but the movie itself is not tight by any stretch of the imagination.
If Disney wanted to successfully kick off a Lone Ranger franchise, they should have contacted Zack Snyder for pointers. Snyder’s ‘Man of Steel’ took another hero whose ideals sometimes seem better placed in another era, and made them relevant again for a modern audience. For an origin movie to be successful, the team charged with making it happen needs to hone in on the character’s core qualities and then work overtime to make sure creative drift doesn’t set in. It seems that for ‘The Lone Ranger,’ producer Jerry Bruckheimer and director Gore Verbinski hoped the money hose could cover up for the unfocused creative vision. The film cost over $215 million, and that’s not including world-wide promotions.
In the theater I saw ‘The Lone Ranger,’ roughly 90 percent of the audience seemed to be on the verge of collecting Social Security benefits, grandparents who remember the 1950’s television show. It didn’t have to be that way. The masked man who brings justice to troubled towns is a proven money maker (e.g., Batman), and whether he dresses up as a bat and rides in a fancy car or simply wears a mask and rides a horse doesn’t matter. As it stands, ‘The Lone Ranger’ didn’t attract a young audience and in all likelihood disappointed Baby Boomers looking to re-live their childhood.
If you see ‘The Lone Ranger,’ you’ll be excited to know that The William Tell Overture does make itself known before the end credits roll. Sadly, during the scene you might find yourself closing your eyes and imagining what could have been had Disney hit its mark.
Here’s to hoping that another movie studio gives the ranger another chance years from now. He deserves it, and just might succeed if he’s given a chance to star in his own film.