July 13, 2013
Lone Ranger Disappoints At Box Office – Should We Be Surprised?
Last weekend, The Lone Ranger might truly have been “alone” in a theater or two. The highly anticipated film starring Johnny Depp as Tonto, and Armie Hammer in the title role, tanked at the box office. Even the Lone Ranger’s silver bullet couldn’t hit a bullseye with critics or fans. The movie only scored a 25 percent on critic compilation site Rotten Tomatoes, while just 68 percent of the audience apparently even liked it.
Not exactly strong praise for a summer “tent pole” film.
The question to ask is, why is this surprising? To answer that question I need to ask the question, “who is Clayton Moore?” If you can’t answer that question, then you probably weren’t excited to see The Lone Ranger; and yet if you knew that Mr. Moore starred as the mysterious lawman in the 1950s TV series and 1956 films The Lone Ranger and The Lone Ranger and the Lost City of Gold – well then you probably also weren’t terribly excited to see this latest version.
Hollywood, unfortunately, doesn’t have a long memory.
The 1981 version of the film, which starred art-student-turned-actor-turned-nobody Klinton Spilsbury in his only motion picture appearance, was a box office disaster. Then in 2003 the WB network (which later merged with UPN to form the CW) aired a two hour TV movie that was to serve as a pilot for a new series. That failed to score with fans, even fans of Chad Michael Murray (One Tree Hill) who played the title character.
In other words, are there actually fans for such a series?
The Lone Ranger started off as a radio show, of all things, in 1933 and later became a popular TV show that ran from 1949 to 1957. He was a super hero style character before the age of super heroes. Batman didn’t appear in comics until 1939. For the record, the Lone Ranger (who was actually John Reid) was also related to Britt Reid, whose alter-ego was the Green Hornet. Both characters originated in WXYZ Radio in Detroit, Michigan, before gaining national fame.
While The Lone Ranger had a run on TV by the 1960s, there was really no place for the masked lawman, which explains why attempts to reboot or relaunch the series have failed. More so today, what’s so great about a mask? It seems every summer has plenty of masked men (and even women) on the big screen.
The other part of the equation is that The Lone Ranger arrived when westerns were big. While some westerns connect with audiences not all do, the more campy ones fail to connect at all. Consider that the 1999 movie version of Wild Wild West starring Will Smith was another Hollywood misfire. Clearly the star power of Smith and Depp isn’t enough to rekindle something old and, dare I say, something classic.
There was also a reboot of The Green Hornet just a couple of years ago as well, and that is now largely forgotten.
Will this mean Hollywood will remember these failures and disappointments? Not by a long shot. Batman and Spiderman keep scoring hits, and that will convince some studio heads that perhaps everything old can be new again – unfortunately!
Image Credit: Disney