Despite their best efforts and truly masterfully applied eyeliner, Armie Hammer and Johnny Depp could not get audiences excited to see The Lone Ranger over the Independence Day weekend. According to The Hollywood Reporter, the Disney blockbuster is expecting a $150m loss worldwide on top of its bloated budget.
The western, based on a 1930s radio program and 1950s TV show, only managed to bring in $48.9m domestically in its five-day opening. Compare that to the $250m production budget and the $175m in marketing, and we’re approaching John Carter levels of disaster.
So what went wrong? People love it when Depp dresses up in whimsical costumes and wobbles precariously on moving vehicles. The film even reunited the Pirates of the Caribbean dream team of Depp, director Gore Verbinski and producer Jerry Bruckheimer. But let’s not forget that Bruckheimer + Disney does not always equal success. For every Pirates, there’s a Prince of Persia: Sands of Time lurking under the surface.
THR also notes that westerns do not typically do well as a genre overseas, where the film is experiencing the most money loss. This is a problem, as The Lone Ranger was intended to be Disney’s reintroduction to live action movies. Doing so with characters unseen since the 1950s may not have been the wisest choice.
The dismal reviews don’t help either. The film has been criticized for being graphically violent, clunky and overwhelmingly long, all fatal flaws that lose the youth audience Disney wanted to put into Lone Ranger and Tonto costumes this Halloween. Some audiences boycotted the film altogether before its premiere for the studio’s decision to cast Depp in Tonto’s role rather than employ a Native American actor.
So what have we learned from this fiasco? Westerns should only cost a Fistful of Dollars. And, you know, be good.