Monday, July 8, 2013

Reel Facts & Opinions: Disney's Disaster

Disney’s latest adventure, in the form of THE LONE RANGER, arrived at theatres with a manure-sized plop this past weekend, pulling in a modest, yet underperforming $48 million at the domestic box office, good enough for second place. The low tally has put the film in the dreaded “box-office bomb” category.
A box-office bomb, or flop, is a term applied to a film which is unsuccessful and unprofitable during its theatrical run. While $48 million may be good enough for a lot of films, the fact that THE LONE RANGER reportedly cost $250 million to make means it will be nearly impossible for Disney to break even, let alone make a profit. The huge loss can only be described as a disaster for Disney.

The film was heavily marketed as a vehicle for the usually-bankable Johnny Depp, and also as a product from the team (producer and director) who had created the PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN franchise (four films which have earned over $3 billion worldwide). With such familiar names, how did the masked-man’s return to the big screen go so wrong and keep people from entering the gate? This blogger can only venture a few opinions:
Old Property – THE LONE RANGER is one of America’s oldest hero-properties, having made its debut on radio in 1933. The character likely reached its peak in 1957, when its eight-year run on TV ended, and a big-screen adaptation in 1981 was another commercial failure. The property is too old and has been out of the public’s mindset for too long, and this past weekend it went up against a familiar, family-friendly franchise…DESPICABLE ME 2. One could argue that Old West films are a hard sell, but recent efforts like TRUE GRIT (2010), and 3:10 TO YUMA (2007) were warmly received.

Lame Leading Man – The film takes a fresh approach to telling the masked-man’s story. THE LONE RANGER is set in the framework of Tonto recounting the tale. While the technique worked for the most part, it put the film into the odd situation of its title character feeling pushed off to the side. But the real problem was the casting of Armie Hammer as the Lone Ranger. While he looked great in the hat and mask, he displayed less charisma than his horse, and his name was not nearly enough to muster an interest from the general public.
Johnny Depp’s Schtick is Getting Old – With a relative unknown in the role of the main character, Disney went with a big name as a sidekick. A fair approach, but the corny appearance of Depp’s Tonto was likely met with a big yawn from the world. Maybe we can blame Tim Burton for this, but moviegoers are seemingly growing weary of seeing Depp dressed up like a weirdo and acting accordingly.

Of course, all of this would have meant nothing if Disney had just made a better movie. Although this Blogger did not think the movie was that bad, film-aggregate site Rotten Tomatoes reports that only 24% of critics gave the film a positive review. Of course, bad movies can make good money too; the 20%-rated TRANSFORMERS sequel (2009) earned over $400 million in the U.S.; good enough to be the fifteenth-highest grossing film in the U.S. all-time. But good movie or not, Disney would hopefully have learned something from THE LONE RANGER and will select and produce their films more wisely in the future, and not just bank on what was done in the past to earn them dough. Good movies, after all, are what brings people through the gate.
What say you?



1 comment:

  1. As I noted in my own Blog I went to this movie knowing it was already considered a Box Office failure and totally convinced I would be disappointed. The expected disappointment probably stems from the fact that I come from a time when nearly every American male child was the Lone Ranger in cap pistol horse play staged in back yards or front porches unlike much of today's youth that seals itself up on sunny and cloudy days playing electronic games on Ipods and tablets and the like. The Lone Ranger was a "realistic Super Hero." We knew we couldn't fly or have bullets bounce off like Superman. But the Lone Ranger was human, like us. You knew who the good guys were and the bad ones as well. And the good guys ALWAYS won! My disappointment with the new Disney movie was, as you pointed out, the story line making the lead character a secondary character through most of the film. At the point where that changes I was suddenly thrown back into those thrilling days of yesteryear and into the character that fought for justice with an Indian (not Native American) sidekick, a white horse and a supply of Silver bullets. It was not only enough to salvage the movie for me. It was enough to make me love it! Hi Ho Silver (forever)!


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