I stumbled upon an article by Gilbert Cruz called “The Lone Ranger Represents Everything That’s Wrong with Hollywood Blockbusters” (at: http://www.vulture.com/2013/07/lone-ranger-is-everything-wrong-with-hollywood.html). It is actually quite a nice read and the conclusions that I personally do not completely agree with are still well supported and seem to make sense.
His ‘unease’ with franchises are well accepted by many including me, as we read and have spoken out against these reiterations often enough. when addressing the origin story problem he states “Give us a story that works and then, if you’re lucky enough to earn a sequel, you can give us flashes of an origin tale down the road, as opposed to weighing down your first movie.” That is one view, yet it is the view of the director that counts. It should be about the vision of the director. Perhaps it is less about the origin story and more about having a visionary director. My view is supported by mentioning the hidden gem ‘Margin Call‘. I think that this is a movie any economic student should watch. It watches like a story, yet there are layers of events that give it all an actual strength. The fact is also about a story portraying the initial stages of the 2008 financial crises are set in a movie.
Can anything be more dull then that? And even though this movie is pretty much all star, it required a visionary director to pull it off. That is how I see the origin story as well, without vision it is a presentation. It does not matter whether we watch a movie containing a Wild Wild West version of Sparrow, or the start of the lone ranger. the same for Thor, Spiderman and so forth, how they ‘became’ is part of the movie, but how to address it?
This dilemma is approached within the slogan of TV channel ‘FX’. “The story is everything!” I think when it comes to TV channels; it is the most brilliant slogan ever. Yes, we remember the special effects, we see the stars we love and idolise, but without the story…. (Imagine the sound of a flop!).
This is also why (for now) I stayed away from the Hobbit. I loved the lord of the rings. I have been a fan of Tolkien since long before I was at the legal drinking age. So seeing the movie was a massive moment in my life for me. Like many fans I did mentally object loudly when the freeing of the shire was missing (as this is the moment the hobbits experience what those around them went through), yet to see the book on the big screen was a moment I loved. To see the Hobbit was indeed something I was looking forward to, yet to see a 320 page book in 3 movies of around 3 hours each is stretching it all a bit thin.
So as most might agree with, is the fact that a good story requires a visionary. Perhaps this is why James Cameron has been so successful? 2 movies bringing in almost 5 billion is just insane! We should not forget that timing is also extremely important. I feel that this is shown when looking at ‘Dances with Wolves’ and ‘a man called horse’, which was a shining moment for Richard Harris. Perhaps the world was not ready for the ‘going native’ view in the 70’s.
The article stamps out a side I actually never gave much notice of. He states “So in order to ensure sequels and appeal to the maximum number of people, it must be rated PG or PG-13. Good luck finding an R-rated summer blockbuster.” He makes a fine point here. I want to see a movie that is good; I am not all in favour of bloody or bloodless movies if they hinder a sense of realism. Although I was never a fan of zombie films, the ‘realistic’ view ‘the Waking dead’ brings, is why I am eye locked to the small screen. So, the ratings requiring certain lack of levels of gore would be counterproductive to me. I do not believe that it is about gore and blood-letting. This is why I enjoyed the movie ‘the A-team’, where with 17,000 bullet you see no one gunned down (keeping in pace with the original TV series), yet the opposite of ‘Act of Valor’ is a gem as it is about the efficiency of making every bullet count (Navy Seals apparently are not about wasting time). So my stance floats a little with the movie I am watching, again, the story makes it happen.
This is why the hammer on ‘The Lone Ranger’ feels a little harsh to me. If it is about entertainment, then the Lone Ranger provides, yet the points the article brings up should not be ignored either. This is a Disney movie and Disney factor is important as that brand has a following with an audience they need to protect. Consider that the (Grand) parents, with younglings on a day out will see the protection that the Disney logo brings and as such a gore driven Zombie film with a Disney logo is unlikely to ever happen.
The final part where I slightly disagree with the views Gilbert Cruz offers, is when he mentions The Phantom and The Shadow. These 90’s movies failed because there was a lack of vision (as I see it). The characters are well established through the radio shows and the comic books. If we consider the slogan of FX and if we consider a slightly more Frank Miller themed view, then consider Howard Chaykin’s ‘The Shadow: Blood & Judgment’. That was more than just a mere piece of comic book. That was graphic art on an entirely different level. As much as Baldwin failed to portray the Shadow, the blame should fall to the lack of vision the director showed (perhaps with a small degree of ‘technology lacking’ options). Consider what Tarsem Singh achieved with ‘Immortal’, now let him have a go at ‘The Shadow: Blood & Judgment’. The result could be a lot more than a cult movie that we will remember for a long time. The result could be a blockbuster R-rated movie. Again, it is about timing and for 2013-2015 the timing seems right to take these old ‘heroes’ off the shelves and give them to visionaries, not to the directors that come from the ‘Hollywood blockbuster template machine’. In that regard we all hope that Luc Besson will achieve to revive the French hero that should be seen as an international landmark. As he is remembered for the Fifth Element, this visionary could make the heroes Valérian and Laureline truly immortal. As franchises go, a trilogy of these two characters could reshape the way people see comic book heroes. The only sad fact is that this movie arrives almost 40 years after I read the comic books. Even now, I still remember the art of Jean-Claude Mézières. What is also intriguing is that the art you see in ‘The City of Shifting Waters’ had a lot of similarities that the TV-Series ‘Revolutions’ showed almost 35 years after the comic book came.
It is also interesting that, considering the success of the lord of the rings and the implied upcoming blockbusters that the Hobbit seems to become, that not a larger net was cast on the type stories that have this epic view. We all remember Flash Gordon. Some trough the view of Ted (a McFarlane sense of humour), some through the exquisite music by Queen, however I still think back to the comics as drawn in the 60’s and 70’s. In that same style there are the stories of the ‘Trigan Empire’. It seems so strange that these successful works of art still have not made it to the big screen.
So I believe that there are plenty of options out there, it just takes faith (and funding) in one visionary to take that step forward.