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« Beauty Break: It's Vera Farmiga. Fan Yourself! | Main | Curio: The Great Escape at 50 »
Tuesday
Aug062013

The Lone Ranger Spawns Multiple Sore Losers

Can we take a moment to shake our heads collectively at Johnny Depp, Armie Hammer and The Lone Ranger team for being sore losers? They're blaming critics and the media for the failure of the film at the box office -- as if opening weekends are determined by critics. LOL. Weirdly Armie Hammer tries to rope in World War Z to the conversation (which has a 67% critical approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes versus their 28% and a much higher audience approval rating, too) 

They tried to do the same thing with ‘World War Z’,” Hammer said of the critical backlash.”It didn’t work, the movie was successful. Instead they decided to slit the jugular of our movie.”

Because this is what critics do. They think "damn, people loved that movie I trashed? I shall have my revenge next time!" and then their tiny selves morph hive-like into Mega-Critic, a ugly monstrously powerful giant beast, big enough to do battle with the beautiful innocence of the Blameless Blockbuster. 

I always feel embarrassment, not schadenfreude, for stars and filmmakers when they blame everyone but themselves. It shows a complete aversion to looking inward and betrays a pampered creative life that actively works against continued evolution as an artist. When people only believe/accept adulation, they calcify. It's why so many artists become self parodies or get less interesting as they progress. I really don't think it's an age thing, though you often hear that people do their best work early in their careers. I think, rather, that it's an insular gated community problem, a result of entourages of "yes men" and belief in your own hype.

previously
Why did the Lone Ranger flop?
The Lone Ranger reviewed 

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Reader Comments (28)

Truth be told, apart from the lame concept that no one really believed was going to be a hit, everyone I know is suffering from Johnny Depp fatigue. He's been stuck in a creative rut for so long and it's increasingly at odds with his indie, iconoclastic image. A Johnny Depp film has become such a cynical, bloated, intellectually insulting event to witness.

If he wants to blame someone, he should blame audiences, who have learned to stop expecting too much from him. And among his upcoming projects: Alice 2? Pirates 5? I could never see another Johnny Depp film and never read about his prissy, deluded offscreen persona again in my life and be just fine.

August 6, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterHayden W

Well said, Nathaniel! ;)

August 6, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterBrandon

The studio definitely should've trusted their instincts when they initially felt the budget was out of control.

August 6, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterBia

That Armie Hammer quote is such a strange misunderstanding of both the role of critics, and their impact.

August 6, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterMike in Canada

Well written! And Ditto.

August 6, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterTravis

"which has a 67% critical approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes versus their 28% and a much higher audience approval rating, too"

Actually, both World War Z and TLR received B+ Cinemascores, which makes this a potentially much more interesting comparison to investigate. Two movies with troubled production histories that got lousy advance press but were well liked by the audiences that saw them - one was able to turn it around and be a success, the other wasn't. Why? Marketing, I suppose, but that doesn't seem like the whole answer either. I think there is something culturally at play that allowed WWZ to succeed and TLR to fail, and I don't think it has much to do with either film's Rotten Tomato score. But I also don't know what the answer is, so for now, I just scratch my head.

Anyway, I sympathize with the TLR guys. I liked their movie a lot, and I believe that they do too, but they should've kept their mouths shut. Failure is as much a part of the movie business as success, and you have to be able to fail with dignity. But I'm sure it's hard.

August 6, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterRoark

The most profitable Western of the past 10+ years has been...wait for it...."Brokeback Mountain." And part of that was because it only cost $15 million to make, then grossed $70 million domestically and another $100 million worldwide. If they'd made a simpler "Lone Ranger" (seriously, that opening train crash sequence?) and had more people sign on with "percentage of the net" for their salaries, it might have broken even by now.

However, though this had some of Johnny Depp's wittier bits of mime in it, everyone who's been commenting that he's in a career/acting rut is right on. And Armie Hammer was terrific in "The Social Network" and "J. Edgar," but maybe he's meant to be a great character actor, not a lead? Not to mention that the film was too long, episodic, had probably one too many shootouts/train chases, and there you are. (Having said all that, I still enjoyed it, though I went in with my expectations somewhat downgraded.)

August 6, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterDback

Everyone knows film critics feed on the negative energy generated by box office flops of tentpole films. Pauline Kael was able to survive for years just on Cleopatra's failure alone!

August 6, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterAnne Marie

My take on this....

Honestly I'm between two minds about this. Obviously the team of THE LONE RANGER is over-reaching, but let's take a step back - I'm not sure we can legitimately say there's not even a modicum of something to consider in what they're saying. We've seen some "critics" review extraneous factors and not the movie at hand and with the response to THE LONE RANGER, WORLD WAR Z and some other films it makes me consider - when you review a film do you review the film or do you review the budget? The veracity of critics sinisterly sharpening their review tools eight months in advance is perverse, but there is - even if slightly - a implicit indication in some reviews of holding the film in a bad light because of an overblown budget.

Of course the relationship between critic reviews and (American) box office is uncertain, but on the other hand can we really say that critical response has ZERO effect on box-office? THE LONE RANGER isn't the first film that has gotten a 37% RT score, and I tend to not pay much attention to RT (I've not gone on that site in months) but even I, who tend to avoid them, knew how much everyone HATED the film. It wasn't just an indication of them not liking it but the dislike seemed especially acrimonious. Again, not a sure point of people out to get the movie but I google the RT score for ON STRANGER TIDES which was even worse than this and I don't remember the revulsion towards that one being as putrid.

Depp and co. responding to the "mean critics" is a poor technique, but I'm truly interested in seeing what type of dialogue it instigates. When "good" movies do well some will write at length about the movie doing well BECAUSE it's good, but when a bad movie does well the argument goes that audiences don't care about critical words - we can't have it both ways, but I suspect the more accurate truth is the position is that the reality is somewhere between the two. Critical word doesn't determine box-office, but I'm not completely sure it doesn't contribute.

August 6, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterAndrewK

This reminds me of the conversation that took place around John Carter last year, where there was this wild scrambling to figure out what went wrong. The title? The marketing? The fact that Taylor Kitsch wasn't a big enough star? And then when I finally got around to seeing the actual movie, I was like...um, you guys are kind of neglecting one key detail, which is the movie itself.

I'm reading a lot of this pushback to the Lone Ranger's negative response (especially Johnny Depp's pushback) as bitterness couched in...laziness. There's really no other way to describe it. Depp assumed that his mere presence in a film would get asses in seats and he's bitter that it didn't. Contrast that to an interview Nicole Kidman gave after Australia kind of crashed and burned, where she said something to the effect of "I really don't think I was very good in that," which is such a frank and honest thing to say. I actually guffawed last week when Johnny Depp released that statement that he may retire from acting (probably as a ploy to get more people to see The Lone Ranger). His threatening retirement from acting would carry more weight if he would stop with the Dark Shadows, Tourists and Pirates sequels and got back to some actual work.

TPKIA -- amen!

Andrew -- sure, it's a mixture. But i fervently belief that wide release openings of movies that did not play at festivals and so therefore have no advanced critical consensus are 100% about everything *but* reviews when it comes to their opening weekend box office.

anne marie - lol. I wish i could have been satiated years after the fact by it. Good lord that movie is a slog. and i love me some Diva Liz.

August 6, 2013 | Registered CommenterNATHANIEL R

OT: Another update on that Superman/Batman movie. They're consulting Frank Miller.

I'll sum up where the two heavy weights of the Superhero comic book adapting sphere are right now:

Warner Bros. is COMPLETELY useless outside of the games and animation spheres. If it weren't for those things, I'd ask them to just sell the entire property set to an interested studio, and even then I might well be re-evaluating that position by 2015, what with their insistent shrinking of possibilities.

Marvel is near useless IN the games and animation sphere, but the films are more than enough to justify Disney's continued hold on the material. Being brave enough to develop Guardians of the Galaxy? Shows how much they're on it, always building new material and GROWING their list of possibilities.

August 6, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterVolvagia

What did they expect from such a confused marketing campaign? The title is The Lone Ranger, but all the promo press is about the actor playing Tonto, who played a pirate in another bunch of films and who looks ridiculous in the promo clips. That stopped a lot of people from going in the door. Word of mouth kept the rest out. It was a bad film. People who don't care about what the critics say hated it and people who do read critics agreed with the reviews.

August 6, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterHenry O.

Of course critical response can affect box office, yes, even with summer popcorn movies. I have a sister who will see Twilight movies regardless of critical response, but there are other movies that are on the cusp. The Lone Ranger was on her cusp; if it had been well reviewed, she would have gone to it. Because it was not critically loved, she skipped it. Maybe TLR is just a movie that ends up being on the cusp of a lot of movie-goers' list, whereas World War Z either got enough good reviews or was more like a must-see regardless of what the critics said.

August 6, 2013 | Unregistered Commentercash

cash -- another good point. and this is probably why it's so hard to judge why certain movies do well and others don't. people like to use the term "critic-proof" for certain films but i'd say it's more like certain genres and certain franchises are critic-proof more so than individual films.

but this on-the-cusp thing is a totally true factor but so tied to the individual moviegoer's preference rather than anything else.

August 6, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterNathanielR

The Lone Ranger
John Carter
Prince Of Persia

You know what the connection between these three high profile flops is? Sand. Too much sand and desert. You can't hide it in the trailers and the marketing and it just makes the films seem barren, desolate, boring, and a chore to sit through, not unlike trudging through the desert for a couple of hours.

I think I'm on to something...

August 6, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterThe Jack

lmao @ The Jack.

Could be the reason "House of Sand and Fog" was not a blockbuster megahit ? ha

August 6, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterDavid

This whole reaction is so embarrassing, but it's most embarrassing from Armie Hammer. Verbinski and Depp have whole careers of hits, both deserved and undeserved, under their belts, some amount of delusion is to be expected. But Armie...buddy...you've made two films as a lead actor and both times they were huge bombs. What have you got to be cocky about?

August 6, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterTB

If anything, I think the critical response to World War Z HELPED it: up until the very week it opened, everybody was expecting a disaster for the ages, so when it was greeted by mixed/neutral reviews, I think a lot of people were shocked by the possibility that it was that much better than it looked. I know that I was.

But yeah, TLR was done in by its ad campaign. "You know that thing you liked Johnny Depp doing four times as a pirate? Even though you didn't actually like it the last time? He's doing it with a bird on his head now". Even more than John Carter, it just wasn't trying to make itself look appealing. Critics might have been able to save this film if it was good, but they certainly didn't have to lift a finger to bury it.

August 6, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterTim

Nathan, you absolutely nailed it in this article. Johnny Depp has finally become an object of ridicule and pity, and now he only makes it worse. His ivory tower is built on sand--I"m sure they had a lot left over.

August 6, 2013 | Unregistered Commenterbrookesboy

The differences in gross between The Lone Ranger and World War Z boils down to zombies being an easier selling point (especially worldwide) than cowboys. As for the quality of each film, I couldn't say as I haven't seen either.

August 6, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterMDA

The Lone Ranger filmmakers were asked the question. It is not like they called a press conference just to complain about critics.

I think there is some truth in what Bruckheimer, Hammer & Depp said but critical response was not the only factor. More like the straw that broke the camels back than the knife to the jugular. If people are enthused before a movie is released then they won't be put off by critics but if people are only somewhat aware of a movie, then a bad review will decide them against it.

The Lone Ranger subject and trailers never raised enough enthusiasm to withstand the critical response.

I agree that a big budget makes a bigger target. This is not just movies; it could be sports teams, public buildings or prom dress where if you spent too much expect people to be ready to cut it down, With movies, it does not seem to be proportional to budget rarther spend over $200million and thats what articles will talk about and some critics will think of all the movies they would rarther have been made for that money.

There are some critics that seemed to be unreasonable and unprofessional when reviewing The Lone Ranger.The metacritic score of 0 from San Francisco Chronicle is an example where it seems just silly to not have a single positive thing to say even about technical components such as cinematography or costumes.

I have respect for critics who can say who might enjoy a movie even if the critic did not like it. I saw The Lone Ranger with my 12yo nephew and it is OK entertainment. I would be happy to recommend it for granddads to see with their young teen grandsons but that is not enough people to make it a financial success.

August 6, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterVaus

agree with what you are saying, nathaniel. but then I don't get you (repetitively) dismissing critics talking about "mad men" this year.

obviously I'm talking about a slightly different thing (I'm not comparing "the lone ranger" to "mad men"), but you seem to believe critics simply 'decided' to hate "mad men" or something. and you also mention constant adulation, which I agree can be bad.

August 6, 2013 | Unregistered Commentermarcelo

TB, I actually think the opposite. Considering they still have to do press for this movie (it is just opening in UK/Ireland this weekend), Hammer is definitely NOT in the position, career-wise, to stop supporting this film. I think the movie's camp just found an angle and try to run with it. If I have to bet that one of these three actually thinks the movie sucks, I would bet Hammer.

By the way, this should probably push Depp into Nicholas Cage category, if he is not even slightly reflecting on the qualitiy of his films.

August 7, 2013 | Unregistered Commenterkin

marcelo - if i ever phrased it that way with "decided" i apologize. I merely meant that critics turned on mad men because it's greatness began to be taken for granted. This happens to a lot of things with continued excellence. appreciation for the excellence can sour into backlash... it's like the oppressiveness of excellence. Meryl Streep went through this in her career too in the late 80s and early 90s wehre she was doing incredible work (A Cry in the Dark and Postcards being two of her best ever) but she suddenly attracted a lot of ill will in the media.

let's call it the opression of excellence. People like new toys so sometimes they toss the old perfectly good ones to the side.

This is obviously a very different case then what's happening now with The Lone Ranger.

August 7, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterNathanielR

This is definitely reaching, though, in terms of justifying a film's poor performance. It's one notch above Johnny Depp stammering and then saying "Uh, it wasn't me in that movie. It was Skeet Ulrich," which is honestly what I would have gone with since we're grasping at straws,

LOL. comment du jour

August 7, 2013 | Registered CommenterNATHANIEL R

Can they not admit that The Lone Ranger just looked awful> I'm sure it isn't nearly as bad as I think, but it exuded laziness. I didn't want to go because I didn't want to see 2 plus hours of actors phoning it in.

August 8, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJoey

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