The Lone Ranger is a live-action Western-style film directed by Gore Verbinski and released by Walt Disney Pictures in 2013. This action movie is based on a radio show of the same name that was first broadcasted in 1933 on WXYZ. It stars Johnny Depp as Tonto, a Native American who accompanies the Lone Ranger, played by Armie Hammer, while bringing justice during the American Old West period. Although the titular character is one of the most popular characters in American pop culture, The Lone Ranger film adaptation was unable to capitalize on the character’s popularity and failed at the box office, making it one of Disney’s biggest movie flops. There were many reasons as to why the film became a box office failure, and to know more about them, here is the brief production history and reception of The Lone Ranger.
Before Disney announced their plans to produce a Lone Ranger film, it was Columbia Pictures that first wanted to create the film adaptation with the participation of Classic Media, who owned the rights to the character during that time in March 2002. Columbia Pictures wanted the tone of the film to be similar to The Mask of Zorro, a 1998 film starring Antonio Banderas, and they also requested to the hired writers, David and Janet Peoples, that Tonto should be re-written as a female love interest. After the script was written, Jonathan Mostow, known for directing Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines, was hired to be the director for the adaptation. However, Columbia declared a turnaround in 2005, which prevented them from investing further in the project.
Jerry Bruckheimer then purchased the film rights of Lone Ranger around 2007 in order for Walt Disney Pictures to produce a movie adaptation of the radio show. Writers Terry Rossio and Ted Elliott, who previously worked on the Pirates of the Caribbean film series, were then hired by Disney to be the screenwriters for the film. In 2008, Disney announced that Johnny Depp would play the role of Tonto in the Lone Ranger and that the script written by Elliott and Rossio, which features supernatural story elements, was re-written by Justin Haythe to retain the original’s Western theme.
Disney would take two years before they can decide who will direct the film, as they wanted Depp to finish filming the fourth Pirates of the Caribbean film and Mike Newell, the proposed director for the Lone Ranger, to finish the production for Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time. When Newell’s film bombed at the box office in 2010, Disney did not hire Newell to direct the film anymore; instead, they hired Gore Verbinski, who also served as the director for the previous Pirates of the Caribbean films.
Unfortunately, Disney announced on August 12, 2011, that The Lone Ranger film would be delayed because of budget concerns that were brought up by Bob Iger, the CEO of the company. The main concern about the film’s budgets is that the money to be put on it may exceed the initial plan, so in order to minimize the movie’s budget, Verbinski, Depp, Hammer, and Bruckheimer opted to defer 20% of their salary. Two months later, Disney announced that the filming for the movie would continue in 2012 after sorting out the budget concerns.
During the filming process of The Lone Ranger, the production team was met with different problems, and these complications include weather issues, an outbreak of chickenpox in one location, several wildfires, and the death of a crew member named Michael Andrew Bridger, who died after an accident inside a large water tank. Despite these setbacks, the production team was able to finish production at the end of 2012.
When The Lone Ranger was released in North American theatres on July 3, 2013, it was reported that it only grossed $9.67 million. In its opening weekend, it grossed $29.3 million in a span of three days. Because of the low box office sales during its first week, The Lone Ranger is speculated to be a box office flop for Disney. Overall, the movie was able to gross $260.5 million, which was low, considering that its budget was estimated to be around $250 million.
The poor box office sales of The Lone Ranger is said to have been brought by the negative reviews by film critics, who states that the two main actors in the movie were a bad miscast and that the story was too convoluted for viewers to understand. In addition, the bland script was also criticized, which led to the bland acting of both Hammer and Depp. When the negative reviews were upload and published on several news websites and magazines, the number of audiences for The Lone Ranger started diminishing, and it led to empty theatres in some parts of the world.
Depp, Hammer, and the production team behind The Lone Ranger openly criticized the critics, stating that the writers of the reviews anticipated the film to bomb because of its budget and not because of the story, thus leading to them already having a negative opinion on the movie even before watching it. A few years after the poor release of The Lone Ranger, many movie enthusiasts regarded the movie as an “underrated gem” and a “soon-to-be cult classic” based on its colorful cast of characters and wacky story. Because of the newfound appreciation for the movie, some people in the movie industry believed that the movie was given negative reviews unjustifiably when it was released.