Saturday, March 10, 2012

The Cowboy Rides Again


Is it strange to try to discern anything from one photo?  This isn't Alfred Steiglitz you know.  Still, now we have the first image of The Lone Ranger, once cancelled, now revived. 

I once thought The Lone Ranger was history.  I have been proven wrong, and whether it should have been revived or not will be up to the audience when it is released in May 2013.  Again, how to look at what we're seeing and reading?

I think I'll just throw in my own speculation.  Given how Johnny Depp is the big star, it seems strange that he would agree to be the supporting player.  I therefore think Tonto (which, by the way, means 'stupid' or 'dumb' in Spanish) will be either the equal to John Reid aka The Lone Ranger (that would be Armie Hammer) or will be showing him a thing or two. 

How this will help or hurt Hammer and the title character I can only guess, but that's part of the fun, ain't it?  How strange will it be that the title character ends up the supporting player.  For The Lone Ranger to succeed, it has to be at the very least a partnership of equals, two men who respect each other.  One simply cannot be subservient to the other.  How Hammer may feel about potentially playing second banana in a film that centers around his character I have no way of knowing.  I am only a few hours drive from Sierra Blanca though, so if he'd like to stop by and tell me...

I imagine the idea is to make The Lone Ranger a franchise, but we come up against two difficult obstacles.  First, I figure anyone under 35-40 isn't all that familiar with the source material, so you'll have to take this film to introduce the characters.  Second, for those of us who do have some vague notion of who the Lone Ranger and Tonto are, they were basically clean-cut figures, wholesome, upright.  Will that work with an audience which is being spoon-fed the idea that such ideals and characters are silly at best, erroneous and dangerous at worst?  Will it try to be more in the style of the television series where everything was clear-cut right or wrong, or will it attempt to give Reid and Tonto an 'edge', be 'darker', 'grittier'?

They are at least tipping their hat to being a little more towards traditional.  Note that the Lone Ranger wears a white hat (although the mask looks rather like something you buy at a grocery store).  It looks like the Lone Ranger will be indeed a lawman, so that's good.

What I will conclude with in my little speculation about a film that being made now and won't be seen for another year and two months (give or take) is the cost.  First, it was $250 million, but then the budget was cut to around $215 million. 

I wonder...again...should a Western cost that much?  I understand that Disney sees this an an investment since they expect The Lone Ranger to be a franchise, but how many times do I have to tell the studios they should not be making these expensive trailers?  When a film series is deliberately attempted, that's what the first film ends up being: one long trailer for something that might never come (hence one of my Golden Rule of Filmmaking: Never End Your Movie By Suggesting There Will Be A Sequel).

The big-wigs in the front office appear oblivious to the fact that, despite how stupid they think the audience is, they won't accept more movies from a bad beginning.  I know that they see franchises as a safe bet in tough financial times, and audiences have given them cause to make some really lousy movies (case in point, all Pirates of the Caribbean films post-Curse of the Black Pearl and The Hangover Part II).  However, not every franchise launch ends up panning out (case in point, Abduction, Superman Returns). 

That's what a movie that is suppose to launch a franchise is: one long trailer advertising more films.  If one thinks about it, both Curse of the Black Pearl and The Hangover did not immediately scream "SEQUEL", "FRANCHISE", "SERIES".  Yes, financially they've done well, but once you poison the well enough times, even the thirstiest person will avoid the waters.  I am a firm believer a film should stand on its own merits.  Sequels should only come when a series is already established (such as the James Bond films) or when you can make stories that tie in with what we've seen from a previous film but that allows both to act independent of what has come before (such as The Godfather Part II or Terminator II: Judgment Day).

Instead, we're being drown in films that have high costs but little returns, ones where the idea is to make more of the same.  If people are going in determined to make The Lone Ranger into a series of films, they better be damn sure The Lone Ranger is the Citizen Kane of Westerns or Westerns/comedies, otherwise this cowboy won't live to see the sunrise.

My advise: make The Lone Ranger, not The Lone Ranger: Part I: The Introduction.  If people embrace it, THEN you can make more Lone Ranger films.  Remember, leave them wanting more...and then don't give it to them.

Still, at heart I'm an optimist, so perhaps I will be surprised and find The Lone Ranger to be good, even great.  However, in the back of my mind, I have to remember I thought the same about The Green Hornet.

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