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What Went Wrong? The Good, The Bad & The Weird Of Disney's 'The Lone Ranger'

The Playlist By The Playlist Staff | The Playlist July 8, 2013 at 12:24PM

Disney's "The Lone Ranger," a lavish period epic directed by Gore Verbinski, starring Johnny Depp and Armie Hammer, had kind of a rough weekend. It began with an unprecedented critical pile-on (there have been some to leap to the film's defense, like Matt Zoller Seitz, who described the movie as a "personal picture, violent and sweet, clever and goofy... as obsessive and overbearing as Steven Spielberg's "1941' — and as likely to be re-evaluated twenty years from now, and described as 'misunderstood'") and ended with a limp box office tally that couldn't even top the middling opening weekend gross of Disney's forgettable franchise nonstarter "Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time."
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The Lone Ranger, Tom Wilkinson

The Weird

Tom Wilkinson's Missing Penis
We saw the movie twice before it even opened and on the second viewing, we picked up on something that had flown right past us the first time— Tom Wilkinson's character has no penis. It's very subtle but when Tonto and The Lone Ranger are visiting Red's, the makeshift whorehouse, Red (Helena Bonham Carter) says that Wilkinson's railroad baron Cole doesn't stop in because an accident during the war (the Civil War, for those playing at home) left him unable to appreciate the girl's distinct charms. Still, we thought we were losing our minds, especially when we brought it up to some Disney publicists who looked like we had just grown a second head (and that second head had also asked them if Wilkinson's character had lost his penis in the Civil War). So we went to the source: Gore Verbinski. His words? "Of course. Somebody's paying attention!" Wilkinson's penis actually adds a huge amount of shading to his villainous character because he keeps trying to artificially engineer a family for himself (one that involves the recently widowed Wilson and her young son), because he doesn't have the gear to make one himself. Too bad everyone glazed over this point. Maybe it was a little too subtle.

The Lone Ranger, William Fichtner
The Bad Guys
Consider the band of bad guys of "The Lone Ranger"— one is a transvestite serial killer, who dresses in his lady victim's clothes and tries to articulate his sexuality (but can't); there's another dude whose face seems to be horrible scarred by rope burns and who leaves the hangman's noose dangling around his neck like a necktie, a reminder that somebody had tried to kill him once and failed; and gang leader William Fichtner, who literally cuts the beating heart out of a man's chest and consumes it in front of him. This is incredibly weird, even for the admittedly loose standards of a Johnny Depp movie directed by Gore Verbinski (keep in mind that he was a director who kicked off the third "Pirates" movie by hanging a little kid). Someone at Disney has to have seen an early cut of "The Lone Ranger" and, concerned about what they saw, insisted that "Planes," a spin-off of the lucrative popular "Cars" franchise, be a theatrical release and not just a direct-to-video affair as originally anticipated. There's probably no cannibalism in that one.

The Lone Ranger, Helena Bonham Carter
Disney's Plans
While it seems like there will be no follow-up, of any kind, to "The Lone Ranger," save some kind of staggering about face at the international market, that doesn't mean Disney had lost hope for the movie's commercial prospects and synergistic possibilities within the company. Disney had already teased "Lone Ranger" elements for its forthcoming "Disney Infinity" video-game but as with everything associated with "The Lone Ranger," they dreamed big. Months ago, plans for some kind of live performance piece timed to the movie's release was planned for Disneyland and Walt Disney World's Frontierland section of the parks, and, even more amazingly, there were tentative blueprints drawn up to place both The Lone Ranger and Tonto into show scenes inside Big Thunder Mountain, the beloved Frontierland roller coaster that just so happens to be centered, just like the climax of "The Lone Ranger," on a runaway train. (The Tonto addition would have been a breeze considering they already had an animatronic Johnny Depp lying around in the revamped version of the Pirates of the Caribbean attraction.) Right now, it looks like the closest the characters are going to get to the park was during the movie's star-studded premiere, which took place at Disney California Adventure. There have been a number of exciting-sounding shows and attractions that have been scuttled in the wake of poor box office numbers, including rides built around such disappointing Disney productions as "The Black Hole," "TRON Legacy" and "Dick Tracy."

What did you find the best, worst, or most baffling about Disney's "The Lone Ranger?" Did you even go? There are clearly a number of exceptional things to talk about in regards to "The Lone Ranger," both good and bad, but after the uniform hazing it got this weekend, the discussion could be sadly short-lived. Sound off below, though, to keep it going. At least for a little while. Before it turns into legend.

- Drew Taylor and Kevin Jagernauth

This article is related to: The Lone Ranger, Johnny Depp, Features, Jerry Bruckheimer, Armie Hammer, Gore Verbinski, Tom Wilkinson


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