Monday, August 15, 2011

What Really Killed 'The Lone Ranger'

At 24 Frames Steven Zeitchik writes up 'what killed The Lone Ranger?'. Seriously? Zeitchik parrots the studio line -- (after careful analysis) we came to the conclusion it would end up costing too much. (By the way, everyone in the blogosphere is buying this, not just Zeitchik).

Please. Come on. 'It would cost too much'? Excuse me while I fall over for dramatic effect. What, exactly, about a Lone Ranger movie would make production costs run to $250 million as Disney suggested? We're not talking 'The Lone Ranger & Aliens' yes? I mean, this is a guy who resides in the old west, rides a horse, and fights the bad guys. Right?

So, what would they have spent $250m on? The nearest parallel for a big-budget western would be 'Cowboys & Aliens'. That flick, with all the CGI you'd expect from a movie with a title like that, cost $160m.

So, you keep the cowboys (and Indians) but lose the aliens with their spaceships dropping plasma bombs and what's so expensive? What killed The Lone Ranger was the online thud that occurred when the movie was announced. There was no splash when the news hit. No web-wide hootin-n-hollerin. The announcement just sat there. It got what you might call utilitarian coverage. Obligatory write ups. But, steam? No.

Over at ClevverMovies YouTube page, in response to the question "Will you be checking out the Lone Ranger when it hits the big screen?, comments were fairly dead:

@Vgirl0829:  Highly doubtful....I like him, just not in this role. And why is because he's not Native American, and no one is going to buy that he is. Unless of course they're that oblivious or ignorant.

And they go on like that. There's the most unengaging talk about what percentage Cherokee Johnny Depp is. Not one person wanted to see the movie. That's just not typical. Not a single OMG! I love this! or I can't f#%ing wait!!!!! No geek love at all.

In reporting Disney had pulled the plug The Orlando Sentinel said of the idea, "It sounded crazy. It sounded dumb." They probably tipped their hand with this comment a little more than they should have but, yeah, exactly. Sure, they waited until the project was dead before saying what they really thought, but that's exactly right -- that's what everyone thought -- they just didn't say it. But, online, when there's no overwhelming love for a movie (like this), that's a big fat 'meh' even if nobody says 'meh'.

It sounded like a dumb idea and I think Disney knew this, but weren't sure. That's why they made the announcement the movie was a go. Not because it was, because they wanted to see if anyone gave a damn. Nobody did.

That's the new thing. Throw an announcement at the internet, see what bounces. We get this all the time. Like, before a big movie opens, the announcement that a sequel is planned and the script is already written. Sometimes it is, sometimes it ain't. But, you make the announcement to make the movie you do have, the one that's opening in a week, look better. 

Studios can't afford to do things old-school anymore. The 'make-any-crap-you-want-then-market-the-hell-out-of-it-and-rake-the-profits' approach doesn't necessarily cut it anymore. (See 'Battleship').

'It would cost too much' is a smoke screen. A polite way of backing out of a bad idea. It wouldn't have cost $250m to shoot 'Lone Ranger', couldn't have. It would have cost much less, however, it would have made back even less than that. There was no fan-boy critical mass. From the feel of it, 'The Lone Ranger' would have flopped. As such, Disney made a plausible sounding excuse and pulled the plug. Total savings: 100% of all costs.

Smart move. Can't argue. Now, let's wait and see how the waters test for 'Austin Powers 4'. I'm thinking we'll have a final decision by the end of the day.

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