Johnny Depp blames the media for ruining The Lone Ranger. Not the controversy surrounding Tonto. Not the massive budget. And definitely not the fact that it wasn't very good. As Stuart Oldham at Variety explained, Depp, along with costar Armie Hammer, producer Jerry Bruckheimer and director Gore Verbinski, blames their flop, and the $190 million Disney could potentially lose, on the media's crass need to "slit the jugular" of the movie. And if you're a journalist reading this now, you — sorry, we — should just accept the fact that he's right. We killed The Lone Ranger. We smothered it before it even sucked in its first breath of life, before it even had a chance.
Ever since Depp and the gang uttered that cold hard truth, the media has been reacting, going through three critical stages as it comes to terms with what it's done.
The first stage is to lash out. After all, Team Ranger didn't hold back their punches. "This is the deal with American critics: they’ve been gunning for our movie since it was shut down the first time,” Hammer said in an interview. “That’s when most of the critics wrote their initial reviews.” Depp also accused film critics of being biased. “I think the reviews were written seven to eight months before we released the film,” he said. Jerry Bruckheimer added that critics would rue the day they ever spoke badly of his masterpiece. "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," Bruckheimer said.
Ouch. As much as it may seem like Depp and Bruckheimer trying to pin this on you is ridiculous and kind of pathetic, you should resist the urge to pursue that train of thought. Or, if, in your heightened emotional state, you feel the need to vent, be civil about it, like Alonso Duralde, the film critic at The Wrap:
If film critics could destroy a movie, Michael Bay and Adam Sandler would be working at Starbucks. If film critics could make a movie a hit, the Dardenne brothers would be courted by every studio in town.
“The Lone Ranger” stunk so much so that audiences got an immediate whiff and stayed away.
Once you've calmed down a bit, you'll start analyzing the argument, breaking it down piece by piece. For example, at one point Depp said “[Critics] had expectations that it must be a blockbuster. I didn’t have any expectations of that. I never do.” Like Isaac Chotiner at The New Republic, you might want to challenge that statement for being absurd. "Oh, I see. Depp didn't think it would be a blockbuster," Chotnier wrote. "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." Challenging the logic of an argument is one way to respond, but is that really helping anyone?
3. Acceptance, and apologies
No. What will help is just admitting you're wrong and never, ever writing anything critical of a movie again, regardless of its artistic merits. Yes, this is when you confess. Don't hold back. Stephen Marche at Esquire laid bare the whole underground, movie destroying world of film critics in his piece "Johnny Depp Is Right! The Lone Ranger's Failure Is All Our Fault." As Marche noted, Hammer was especially tuned in to the injustices being delivered by the media:
His co-star Armie Hammer also made a comment in the Variety article that was incredibly insightful as to how and why critics do what they do: "It's gotten to an unfortunate place with American critics where if you are not as smart as Plato you are stupid." A spookily astute observation. I remember one evening, during our conference where we decide which movies to destroy and which to let live, David Denby was saying about Armie Hammer, "I don't think he's as smart as Plato," and A.O. Scott said, really quickly, too, "He must be stupid."
Jason Bailey over at Flavorwire seemed practically overcome with guilt in his "Confessions of a Serial Movie-Killer." He realized he'd been given exactly what he wanted and he'd gone and ruined it. Bailey writes:
As Bruckheimer notes, “The critics keep crying for original movies, and then you make one and they don’t like it, so what can I tell you.” I have to say, the truth hurts here. Bruckheimer and crew went and made an original movie (based on an 80-year-old character previously heard on the radio, seen on television, and featured in three earlier theatrical films, and crassly marketed as an unofficial Pirates of the Caribbean), and all we did was hate all over it!
Next time you want to review a film, please keep all this in mind, especially if you're reviewing Pirates of the Carribean 5, National Treasure 3, Bad Boys 3, Top Gun 2, Pirates 6 or any of the other original, unique films Bruckheimer and the gang are working on.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.
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