Recently, comments were made by producer Jerry Bruckheimer and actors Johnny Depp and Armie Hammer regarding their recent flop The Lone Ranger. To put simply, they blamed its box office failure on American film critics. They claimed that the critics wrote their reviews months in advance of seeing the film, perhaps as far back as 2011 when production on the film was first shut down by Disney due to a ballooning budget ($250 million). Production went forward when Bruckheimer, Depp, and director Gore Verbinski agreed to take a pay cut, and despite this, the budget soon ballooned back up (seriously, that’s a ridiculous amount for a Western; I know that Django Unchained cost $100 million, but at least you can see where every cent was spent). Film critics were aware of the budget issues for The Lone Ranger, but from what I’ve read from some of the negative reviews, the budget issues weren’t really a factor in why The Lone Ranger was a terrible movie.
I would like to note that I haven’t seen The Lone Ranger. There’s a lot of good movies to see in theaters and The Lone Ranger‘s 29% rotten rating (meaning that only 28% of the reviews posted were positive) on Rotten Tomatoes guaranteed that it would not go on my wish list of movies to see. I have seen some parts of it while doing projection at the theater I work at, and I wasn’t very impressed. For one thing, what purpose did the bookends in the 1930s serve other than to make an already long film even longer? I’m still having trouble with the idea of The Lone Ranger needing to be a special effects-laden summer blockbuster (seriously, Bruckheimer, what were you thinking?). Everyone I know who saw the film didn’t really have anything positive to say about it, and some were so bored by it that they fell asleep while watching it. I don’t know who came up with this saying, but if it looks like a turd and smells like a turd, it’s most likely that it’s a turd.
Now I turn to World War Z, which had some post-production issues that got a lot of attention from critics as far back as a year before the film came out. There were reports of additional re-shoots because the film wasn’t quite working (the whole third act was among the re-shoots). There were also issues of the zombie effects for the film. The effects work and the re-shoots increased significantly to $190 million. It would be a fair assessment that there was much more bad press for World War Z than there was for The Lone Ranger. At the NATO NY conference for theater managers back in early May, Paramount showed three scenes from World War Z. For the first time, I was hopeful that the film might turn out to be good (I did like what I saw). Then there was a critics screening of the film in New Jersey a couple of weeks later and there was a lot of positive buzz that came out of that screening (one critics had tweeted that the film’s third act problems appear to have been resolved). I was even more hopeful about the film, and sure enough, World War Z opened at the end of June to a positive critical reception and has become a sleeper hit at the box office.
I’ve seen World War Z twice on the big screen (once in 3D and once in 2D). It was a very good disaster film (yes, not a zombie film but a disaster film). It was intense and suspenseful, and offered strong performances from the international cast (particularly Brad Pitt, who also produced). It isn’t surprising that The Lone Ranger hasn’t enjoyed the success that World War Z has. The trailers for it weren’t very good, there was the issue of Johnny Depp playing the Native American Tonto (who was promoted from mere sidekick to equal partner, probably because of Depp’s involvement), and it just seemed to give off a Wild Wild West vibe (a film I was unfortunate enough to see on the big screen when I was 15; to be fair, I was forced to choose between that and Big Daddy, and I definitely wasn’t going to see a crappy Adam Sandler movie). Expectations were low for The Lone Ranger, and it wasn’t a surprise that the reviews for it were as terrible as they were. Jerry Bruckheimer doesn’t seem to understand that a polished turd is still just a turd, and people understand that the film is a giant, steaming horse turd. I did hope it would turn out to be good, but since it’s a Jerry Bruckheimer production, it was always more likely going to be bad than good. I now leave you with a recent quote from Mark Wahlberg regarding The Lone Ranger: “They’re spending $250 million for two dudes on a horse? Where’s the money going?”