July 02, 2013 6:25pm PT by Graeme McMillan
Why Aren't More People Talking About 'The Lone Ranger'?
Why, exactly, doesn't anyone seem to be excited about Disney's upcoming The Lone Ranger?
At first, I thought that my own lackluster reaction to the trailers was coloring my perception of whether anyone was interested in watching Johnny Depp try to make Armie Hammer look interesting by proxy, but apparently not; according to data released by social media analytic company Fizziology, the revival of the pulp western hero has fewer people talking about it online ahead of its release than Iron Man 3, Man of Steel or Star Trek Into Darkness.
Fizziology's metrics tracked 21,156 tweets, Facebook comments or blog posts being made about the movie a week prior to its release, which only sounds like a lot until you look at Robert Downey Jr.'s latest outing as Tony Stark, which had 1,639,691 by comparison. The argument that its numbers would be lower -- as the beginning of a franchise -- is perhaps trumped by similar franchise revival Man of Steel receiving 304,266 online comments a week ahead of its own release.
There is an upside, however; more than half of those talking about The Lone Ranger on social media -- 55 percent, to be exact -- have positive feelings about the movie, with only 10 percent having something negative to say. That might change when the movie is released; it's currently at 21 percent on Rotten Tomatoes, ranking even lower than Vince Vaughan's longform Google commercial, The Internship).
If you're feeling a sense of deja vu right now, you're not alone. No, I'm not talking about last year's John Carter, although that demonstrated Disney's failure to conquer the blockbuster market when not accompanied by the Marvel logo, but a movie far closer in tone and genre to Lone Ranger -- 1999's Wild Wild West, in which a seemingly bankable movie star (in that case, Will Smith) re-teamed with a director he'd made an earlier hit franchise with (Barry Sonnenfeld, the man behind Men in Black) for a western blockbuster action comedy.
Audiences stayed away from that movie, leaving it to limp to a domestic gross that fell more than $50 million short of its estimated budget. Does the same fate await The Lone Ranger? It's too early to tell, but with Fizziology suggesting that its big competition for this weekend, Despicable Me 2, has more than eight times the online conversation, and almost no negative commentary whatsoever, things aren't looking good. If it does flop, we can but hope that the next time someone pitches a "can't-lose" take on a western for the summer blockbuster audience, someone remembers the fates that befell both Ranger and Wild Wild West -- even Jonah Hex, for that matter -- and asks the all-important question: "Does it have to be a western?"