August 16, 2011

Werewolves doomed Lone Ranger

As I've thought all along, entrusting the Lone Ranger and Tonto to Johnny Depp was a mistake. Apparently I was right again. Here's more on why Disney shut down The Lone Ranger:

Is Hollywood Getting Fiscally Responsible Or Losing Its Nerve?

By Dorothy Pomerantz[T]he budget on The Lone Ranger had reportedly ballooned way past the $200 million mark. That’s a lot to spend on a Western. Because the genre is so specifically American, there’s a good chance the film would struggle overseas and the international market has become more important than ever. Just look at the recent western True Grit. The film was a giant hit over here earning $170 million on an estimated budget of $38 million. But it only earned $80 million overseas, 32% of its global take. Compare that to the most recent Depp/Bruckheimer film, Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides which earned 77% of its $1 billion box office overseas.

Also consider the recent performance of the western/sci-fi mashup Cowboys & Aliens. The highly-anticipated film has grossed a mere $80 million in the U.S. so far on a budget of $163 million. It has yet to open wide overseas but it’s highly unlikely it will perform will enough abroad to turn the film into a big hit.

So from a purely dollar and cents point of view, it makes sense that Disney would want to rethink The Lone Ranger and its budget. A source says the film is still high priority within the studio and that the parties are getting together to figure out the next steps. But Disney is a big public company ($63 billion market cap) with millions of shareholders who want to see the film division return healthy profits. The studio needs to consider the value of every penny it spends.
'The Lone Ranger' is out of the saddle

Disney suspends the planned production of the western because of worries about its cost. Johnny Depp was to star.

By Dawn C. Chmielewski and Richard Verrier
Walt Disney Co.'s decision to suspend the planned production of "The Lone Ranger" because of budgetary concerns—even though the reinvention of the classic western would star the world's most bankable actor, Johnny Depp—reflects Hollywood's continued fixation on curbing costs.

The movie, to be produced by Jerry Bruckheimer and directed by Gore Verbinski, the team behind the first three "Pirates of the Caribbean" movies, still could end up in theaters for its scheduled Christmas 2012 opening. Negotiations between Disney and the filmmakers continued Monday, according to several people familiar with the situation, with Disney trying to bring the estimated price tag of $250 million closer to $210 million.

Nonetheless, work was suspended on sets under construction in New Mexico and most of the 60 workers hired were laid off. The studio remains interested in making the film, which reportedly introduces supernatural elements, including werewolves, to the familiar characters first introduced to radio listeners in the 1930s and later featured in a popular television series.
Werewolves? Did you read that right? Yes, you did.

Twilight of the Caribbean

Dances With WerewolvesThe reason The Lone Ranger's budget was so astronomically high that Disney execs decided to shut it down was because it's an effects-heavy CG thing due to being a kind of an Indian-spirituality werewolf movie--a.k.a., The Lone Ranger Meets the Wolfman. Yes, I'm serious. A 3.29.09 draft of Ted Elliott and Terry Rossio's script makes it clear it was going to be at least partly about some kind of Native American wolfbeast tearing victims apart and leaving a bloody mess.

Don't take my word for it--look at the below photo capture of page 61 of Elliott and Rossio's draft.

"It was always going to be a big Bruckheimer CG movie with traditional Bruckheimer elements with an eye toward being a tentpole, totally Pirates-style," says a gadfly screenwriter who always hears stuff and has been following the project through postings on private writers' website that Elliott has posted on.

"It was never going to be a semi-traditional was never going to be Zorro," he says.

"It was going to be a Tonto show mainly. Tonto as the top dog and more dominant than the Lone Ranger. Tonto and the Indian spirits like Obi Wan Kenobi and the force. The driving engine was going to be Native American occult aspects worked in with werewolves and special effects. But flavored with doses of Native American spirituality in a serious way."
And:The most interesting angle for me is the story about Depp taking the Native American spiritual stuff seriously, and how he didn't want to camp it up like Captain Jack. He wants his role to honor Native American culture and its spiritual foundations.

"Depp's interest in playing Tonto is about fulfilling his Marlon Brando legacy," the director-writer believes. "Deep is partly Native American himself and he was partly mentored by Brando, who was a big Indians' rights advocate. So he didn't want to do any kind of jaunty performance that plays it light and spoofy with the Native American thing. No Captain Jack crap this time around."
No Captain Jack crap, just werewolves and (I'm guessing) shamans, spells, and burial grounds. I.e., the usual supernatural crap that has passed for Native culture in the last century or so of movies.

Another blogger reacts to this idiocy:

Werewolves to Blame for $250 Million ‘Lone Ranger’ Budget

By Ben MooreAh, yes. What better way to fulfill Brando’s legacy and promote Native American rights than with a $250 million Lone Ranger remake/reboot about mystical werewolves murdering people? ‘Excuse me, Wolfen is calling.’And:There are two schools of thought here. The first being, werewolves are awesome, so why not add them to The Lone Ranger? After all, cowboys fighting werewolves isn’t as likely to make theatergoers laugh out loud at the trailer in the way that, for example, cowboys fighting aliens might.


The sanest point-of-view, in this writer’s opinion, is somewhere in the middle: Sure, a Lone Ranger film featuring werewolves could be awesome–in the same way that pretty much every movie idea could be awesome if the writing is there–but then why are they even making a Lone Ranger film to begin with? Why not just make a generic cowboy movie with werewolves?
Comment:  What was this "Native American wolfbeast" supposed to be? A Navajo skinwalker? A Wendigo? Or just your garden-variety Quileute werewolf?

Moore may take a middle position, but I don't. This has to be one of the stupidest moviemaking decisions ever. Native "wolfbeasts"--including skinwalkers, Wendigos, and sasquatches--have been done hundreds of times in movies, TV shows, novels, comic books, and video games. This is one of the least original ideas ever. If you're talking about supernatural stories involving Natives, it may be the least original idea.

Then there's the fact that the movies have inundated us with Native werewolves in the last few years. Have you ever heard of a little something called Twilight, idiots? Why in the freakin' world would you gamble $250 million on a rehash of a franchise still in the theaters? What are the odds that audiences are hungry for still more movies featuring werewolves?

Depp's supernatural Indians

This news proves what I thought: that Depp has little respect for or understanding of Native cultures. When he thinks of Indians, he apparently thinks of ghosts, demons, and other spooky stuff.

I gather his version of Tonto was supposed to be Comanche. Was the beast part of Comanche culture also? Was the movie going to invoke Comanche rituals to track it or contain it? I doubt it.

Or was the movie going to feature a generic tribe with a generic "shaman" chanting about a generic beast? That is, a generic beast cribbed from the Navajo skinwalker, the northeastern Wendigo, the northwestern sasquatch, and a dozen other Native "monsters" across the continent? A beast that would confirm everyone's stereotypical beliefs: that Natives are associated with dark, demonic forces because they're less civilized and more savage than the rest of us?

I've got a lot of money that says the latter.

Audiences want more monsters?

Then there are the practical considerations:

1) A werewolf movie might alienate the fans nostalgic for the Western hero. Meanwhile, it wouldn't attract fans who have seen dozens of movies and TV shows about vampires, werewolves, and zombies. It's offering the worst of both worlds: no nostalgia for traditionalists and nothing new for trend followers.

2) If the movie did well, where would the sequel go? The Lone Ranger meets Dracula? The Frankenstein monster? It's kind of hard to return to bank robbers and cattle rustlers after a monster mash. You're risking a potential franchise on the hope that people secretly want a Western Night Stalker.

3) Jonah Hex, True Grit, Cowboys and Aliens, etc. Where's the evidence that anyone in Hollywood knows how to make a successful Western?

4) And, of course, the incredibly inflated budget. How bad a filmmaker do you have to be to get your movie canceled after a studio greenlighted it?

These days, anyone who thinks a werewolf is a good idea--much less a $250 million good idea--should be barred from making movies. Pitting the Lone Ranger against a "wolfbeast" is like something a kindergartner would think of. "Let's have Superman marry Barbie, James Bond turn into a robot, and the Lone Ranger fight a werewolf. Wouldn't that be cool?"

For more on Depp's lame-ass approach to the Lone Ranger, see The Lone Ranger as Don Quixote?, New Approach to the Lone Ranger? and Spooky Stuff in Depp's Lone Ranger.

Below:  The real star of Johnny Depp's The Lone Ranger?


Anonymous said...

This is getting ridiculous! This might be interesting for 20 to 30 year old unemployed losers, living with parents and the current wave of sci-fi action, super hero genre Hollywood has been pushing lately, but to me, enough is enough.

If the film is about re-inventing Tonto, then call it Tonto Snags Werewold Women! Stop using the Lone Ranger as a selling point to a concept that does not exist. I would rather see a good western about corrupt cowboys cornering the Lone Ranger as Tonto comes to the rescue. Wasn't that the whole scenario of the original TV series? The vampire werewolf thing is getting old. We've seen sexy horror with the boring high school Twilight series as well as the better (my opinion) Underworld films.

Anonymous said...

Werewolves? LOL Isn't that in the Romanian countryside? (Or is that vampires? I don't know anymore.)

But for the last time, we don't fracking transform into wolves!

dmarks said...

"Blastr" reports that the movie is on again.