Why Did The Lone Ranger Bomb? Blame It on the Critics

The Lone Ranger Johnny Depp Armie Hammer Poster
Poster for 'The Lone Ranger' starring Johnny Depp and Armie Hammer - Photo © Walt Disney Pictures
It’s all the fault of those American critics, according to Armie Hammer. Disney’s big budget Western The Lone Ranger, which found Tonto the brains of the operation and the Lone Ranger pretty much just a guy who’s along for the ride, did horrible at the box office because the U.S. critics all ganged up on the film. It didn’t stand a chance against such powerful forces, according to Hammer’s way of thinking. Never mind the fact that the critics blasted other box office successes this year (case in point: Identity Thief). The Lone Ranger tanked because critics simply didn’t give it an opportunity to succeed and instead judged it based on its rocky road to theaters.
Forget that it’s way too long and poorly paced, The Lone Ranger didn’t catch on with audiences because critics awarded it bad grades so says the film’s Lone Ranger. The box office performance also had nothing to do with a scattered story, Johnny Depp playing Tonto in a way which wasn’t exactly respectful of Native Americans, or the fact the film’s aggressively violent and tonally uneven.
In an interview with Yahoo!UK, Hammer said, “I’ll tell you, this is the deal with American critics. They’ve been gunning for our movie since it was shut down the first time. I think that’s probably when most of the critics wrote their initial reviews.” And Depp had this to say about the critics: “I think the reviews were probably written when they heard that Gore [Verbinski] and Jerry [Bruckheimer] and I were going to do The Lone Ranger.”
Really? Is it really the intention of the actors to place the full blame for the performance of their film at the feet of film critics? I’m a critic and there is absolutely no way I – nor my fellow critics – have that much power. If we did, studios would never hold advance screenings for the press. To blame a group of writers for The Lone Ranger‘s take at the box office is completely out of line. And not once in the interview (at least in the clips used by Yahoo!) do Hammer, Depp, Jerry Bruckheimer, or Gore Verbinski take any responsibility for the film’s tepid reception in theaters.
I do however think it’s interesting that Bruckheimer says he believes critics were reviewing the budget and not the movie, and that the audience doesn’t care about the budget. If it is the fault of critics, then wouldn’t the audience that was supposedly influenced by these reviews realize the critics were rating the film based on how much money was spent bringing it to the screen and not on the merit of the actual final product, and thus not care about the review and go see the movie anyway? Simply put, the reason the film didn’t do well is because of the storyline and trailers. That’s what turned off potential ticket buyers – not critics.
“If you go back and read a lot of the negative reviews, most of them don’t actually have anything to do with the content of the movie but more what’s behind it. It’s gone to an unfortunate place with American critics where if you’re not as smart as Plato, you’re stupid,” said Hammer in the interview. So, let’s just briefly examine a handful of negative reviews posted on RottenTomatoes where it currently sits at a 28% rating to see what the critics who didn’t care for the movie had to say:
– “it’s predictable, derivative and at times quite spectacularly boring.” – Time Out
– “The fatal flaw in Jerry Bruckheimer’s monumentally monotonous production is that it forgets its duty to entertain.” – Rolling Stone
– “At one point the masked man gets his head dragged through horse manure. Watching The Lone Ranger, you know the feeling.” – Chicago Tribune
– “This attempt for another Pirates of the Caribbean-scaled series tries to have it too many ways tonally, resulting in a work that wobbles and thrashes all over the place.” – The Hollywood Reporter
– “It represents 2 1/2 of the longest hours on record, a jumbled botch that is so confused in its purpose and so charmless in its effect that it must be seen to be believed, but better yet, no. Don’t see it, don’t believe it, not unless a case of restless leg syndrome sounds like a fun time at the movies.” – San Francisco Chronicle
Watch the interview:


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