The Official “Lone Ranger Team Hit Back at Critics” Commentary


Full disclosure: I have not seen The Lone Ranger. I’m merely poking fun at—née poking holes in—the irritating argument against film critics who both have it out for movies and have the uncanny ability to tank any film they have it out for.

James Haygood, The Lone Ranger‘s editor, took to Facebook days after his critically drubbed film opened in theaters across America. He bemoaned the state of film criticism, acknowledging that the internet has created a culture of conformity. If you haven’t read his thoughts, take a few minutes to do so. They’re rough around the edges, but I feel like he makes some good points. (It’s also worth pointing out that this is Haygood’s first critical bomb; his other credits include The Game, Fight Club, and Where the Wild Things Are.)

So there’s that. Now, Team Lone Ranger is latching onto the narrative in advance of its UK release on August 9. Yahoo! Movies UK & Ireland sat down with producer Jerry Bruckheimer, Johnny Deep, Armie Hammer, and director Gore Verbinski, and this video happened. Below it, I’ve got my “production notes”—observations about their claims and this line of attack more generally.

0:20 – Armie, please tell me the deal with American critics. Tell me how you’ve come to this informed opinion, and how (since you needed to call out American critics specifically) we differ from European critics.

0:25 – Might I recommend Ludens, woman off-screen who’s about to be mad at Armie Hammer…

0:28 – Just to keep the timeline straight: most of the critics wrote their reviews when Disney shut down production. That was August 12, 2011. Cool.

0:37 – Hmmm, OK. Old (Capt.) Jack Sparrow has a different take on these events. According to him (and I’m sure he’s informed as to these matters), critics actually wrote their reviews when the project was announced. That was back in 2008. I’m starting to see holes in this story.

0:47 – Depp makes, I think, a fair point about expectations. It’s OK to write about production troubles. It’s even fine to mention them in a review. When they come to inform your critical opinion, we have a problem, and you’ll see that here and there. Now, to lump all American critics together and make that claim—that’s nonsense.

0:47 – Also worth noting is Depp’s insistence that he didn’t come into this movie with any expectations (in regard to it being a blockbuster or whatnot). Then why go on the defensive? If he’s happy with the movie, shouldn’t that be enough? I think he’s being disingenuous.

0:57 – Bruckheimer thinks the audience doesn’t care how much a movie costs. That’s probably true. But let’s put this in perspective: The Lone Ranger has made a TON of money. To date, it’s worldwide total is around $175 million. If the movie didn’t cost so much ($215 million production budget, according to Box Office Mojo), we wouldn’t be having this conversation because everyone would be sitting on fat stacks of cash.

1:22 – I hope every movie is critically loved. I hope every movie is the best movie ever. I hope I’m one of the critics who helps The Lone Ranger come back around if and when I see it.

1:32 – It’s always good to paint with broad strokes, right?

1:42 – Oy, this timeline is messy. Now, the reviews were written seven to eight months before the movie was released. I really want to know. How did I miss the memo? And how the hell did the embargo hold for so long?

1:45 – How many of the negative reviews did you read, Armie? I want an exact number. Seriously.

1:50 – I’m doing this on the fly, but here are a few negative reviews that almost exclusively critique the content of the movie:

Christopher Orr of The Atlantic acknowledges the film’s budget critically, but he also says, “The film has plenty of weaknesses—an unevenness of tone, a surfeit of plot convolutions, some problematic political echoes—but its central flaw is that it is absurdly, punishingly overlong.”

Nowhere in Scott Tobias’ review for The Dissolve does he mention the film’s budget. Instead, he faults the cast: “There are serious miscalculations throughout The Lone Ranger, starting with the casting: Hammer plays the masked hero with the dim enthusiasm (or enthusiastic dimness) of Brendan Fraser at his most stilted; Depp’s Tonto is an ethnically dubious repurposing of his popular Jack Sparrow character, more stoic but equally eccentric; and Helena Bonham Carter, as a brothel madam with a lethal fake leg, does little but add to the cartoon grotesquerie.”

Finally, the always-intelligent Eric D. Snider, who also wrote the brilliant “The Pitch Meeting for ‘The Lone Ranger'”, blames pacing for the film’s failure, saying, “Wild West lawyer-turned-avenger John Reid, a wet blanket and a doofus, doesn’t embrace his role as Lone Ranger until the film’s TWO HOUR mark.”

Now, I recognize Orr, Tobias, and Snider are quite a bit more informed and eloquent than most critics. And I know there are some out there who were predisposed to dislike The Lone Ranger, but to push all the blame outward and not offer even a speck of honest introspection is the reason why I’m taking the time to write 1,000+ words about these guys.

1:56 – “If you’re not as smart as Plato, you’re stupid.” A painfully ignorant statement. I’ve called a ton of movies dumb fun, and I’m sure plenty of other critics have, too. This statement bothers me so much that I don’t wish to discuss it any further.

2:07 – Hasn’t anyone considered that the absurdist, independent feeling you describe is what’s turning off the masses? Haven’t the consistent 60% or more weekly drops at the box office indicated word of mouth is poor?

2:50 – Shouldn’t it be difficult for movies of this scale to get made? I mean $200 million is a lot of money. Shouldn’t it be difficult to spend that on a movie? Why are we bemoaning this?

2:59 – I’m not sure Bruckheimer understands what an original movie is. There’s a reason this is called The Lone Ranger, right? Because it’s based on characters people are supposed to identify with? If it was original, couldn’t Hammer’s character have been called Joe, and Depp’s Tony?

3:02 – Your smile makes it so difficult for me to dislike you. I want to dislike you, but that SMILE!

3:14 – I’m sure the mostly positive reviews for World War Z had nothing to do with its success, right?

3:17 – Dipshit.

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