EGOS AUGUST 6, 2013
Variety has a horrifying article—"horrifying" because of the levels of self-deception and insanity it depicts—about The Lone Ranger, the biggest catastrophe of Hollywood's summer. (Full disclosure: I saw the film.) Disney had the good sense to delay production on this two-and-a-half hour monstrosity back in 2011 because, oh I don't know, spending $250 million to make a film—based on a piece of pop culture that is not exactly current, and whose genre (Westerns) is no longer popular, and then spending another $150 million to market it—seemed like a waste of money. The budget was scaled back to an only-slightly-less ridiculous $215 million (this is still Hollywood), where it nevertheless went over-budget (and over $250 million), opened on July 4th, and quickly tanked with audiences and critics. Now Disney is going to lose as much as $200 million on the movie, and the much heralded trio behind both this film and the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise (Johnny Depp, director Gore Verbinski, mega-producer Jerry Bruckheimer) have all seen dents in their reputations.
You might think this story I have sketched would call for a little humility from the team that wasted so much money, and bored audiences all over the world. But you would be wrong. Apparently this disaster is the fault of critics. Says Depp:
"I think the reviews were written seven to eight months before we released the film."
Says Armie Hammer, the film's co-star:
"This is the deal with American critics: they’ve been gunning for our movie since it was shut down the first time. That’s when most of the critics wrote their initial reviews."
"I think they were reviewing the budget, not reviewing the movie. It’s unfortunate because the movie is a terrific movie, it’s a great epic film. It has lots of humor. Its one of those movies that whatever critics missed in it this time, they’ll review it in a few years and see that they made a mistake."
The film is like a fine wine, really, or a piece of art so complex that it must be observed several times before the true meaning reveals itself. (Keep in mind, too, that all the Pirates sequels got bad reviews and made boatloads of money.)
Anyway, things descend even further once Hammer, who really really should not be called on to speak without a script, added, "It's gotten to an unfortunate place with American critics where if you are not as smart as Plato you are stupid." (He added, ridiculously, that "most of" the reviews have nothing to do "with the content" of the film.) Hammer also invoked World War Z to back up his case:
"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."
The critical panning was really more of a full-fledged conspiracy, then. Or not: World War Z got pretty good reviews.
But the award for Most Solipsistic and Insufferable goes to Johnny Depp. (I was going to try and mock his career choices but I can't top this.) First he says that "Gore [Verbinski] made a very brave film" which has "an independent feel to it." (Poor Verbinski was left to add that the film was "counterprogramming" to other big studio films, because the characters are not superheroes, and that that is the reason critics disliked it: They wanted more superheroes!)
Depp then added that the critics "had expectations that [The Lone Ranger] must be a blockbuster. I didn’t have any expectations of that. I never do." Oh, I see. Depp didn't think it would be a blockbuster. He must have merely assumed that a major company should spend $400 million on this very brave film, not in the expectation it would make money, but rather for the noble calling of artistic flourishing. Depp recently dropped out of a movie because his $23 million fee was deemed too high by the studio. Some people mocked him for doing so, but that was unfair: He probably didn't "have any expectations" it would be a blockbuster, and merely wanted to save everyone money. What a guy.
Isaac Chotiner is a senior editor at The New Republic. Follow him @IChotiner.