I could be wrong. In fact, I hope I am. But based on past performance, I tend to see a certain masked man bringing disappointment to the box office this summer.
Let us be honest. The last time movie audiences saw the story of the former Texas Ranger in 1981, it pretty much tanked. And who remembers the man behind the mask? According to IMDB, he never did anything else.
If you are a certain age, Clayton Moore is that man. And Jay Silverheels his faithful Indian companion. You likely can’t hear the William Tell Overture without hearing, “Hi ho, Silver! Away!!!”
As to the story, it hasn’t changed much since radio days. As Wikipedia tells it:
“A posse of six members of the Texas Ranger Division are ambushed by a band of outlaws led by Bartholomew “Butch” Cavendish. Later, an Indian named Tonto stumbles on the scene and recognizes the lone survivor, Ranger Reid (whose first name was never given on the show), as the man who had saved his life some time in the past. He nurses Reid back to health. The two men dig six graves for Reid and his comrades, so that Cavendish will believe that there were no survivors, forgetting that Cavendish thought he had killed seven men in that canyon, including the traitorous scout who led the Rangers into the trap. Among the Rangers killed there is Reid’s own older brother, Captain Daniel Reid, who had been a captain in the Texas Rangers. Tonto fashions a black Domino mask, using material from Captain Reid’s vest, to conceal the Lone Ranger’s identity. Even after the Cavendish gang is brought to justice, Reid continues to fight for law and order and against evil and crime, using the alias of “The Lone Ranger.””
Pretty much all of the versions stick to that story. It’s a tale of revenge and the fight against injustice.
Just like John Carter.
And just like John Carter, it is a story that has been told over and over again. Some better than others, like the original Die Hard. Say what you will, but both stories have roots that cross the same ground. Others may be disguised as “buddy” pictures or lone wolf character studies, but they go back to that Texas Ranger legend.
So, you know this has to have some folks worrying inside the Mouse. At least, we can hope someone is having sleepless nights because of it. Will audiences buy Johnny Depp as Tonto? Based on the trailers so far, it is no worse than his role as Barnabas Collins in Tim Burton’s under-performer, “Dark Shadows”. At best, we get Captain Jack Sparrow with a crow on his head. Look for dead crows to appear somewhere in the next Pirates film, guaranteed as an on screen joke. We get plenty of action, trains and flying debris, too. But is there a story in among all of that to draw audiences? Certainly not a new story, at any rate.
I would love to be wrong here. Really. But let’s recall, shall we? A film with a classic story line, actors who should do more than chew scenery, and buck up when playing against computer generated imagery… It is John Carter, all over again.
The Lone Ranger will get his revenge, in the end. Justice will be served. But will it be enough that audiences will be tickets in the numbers Disney hopes for?
“Who was that masked man?”