This weekend’s opening for ‘The Lone Ranger’ seems to have been a shaky one, with those who gawp about Hollywood stuff in shock that the movie did even worse financially than ‘John Carter’, which has become shorthand for “failure.”  Still, the weaknesses that reviewers of the film keep harping on (too long, too wacky, failing to take the characters and their premise seriously) remind me of the reviews of 2011’s ‘The Green Hornet’, a movie that likewise underperformed at the box office.  Having seen Seth Rogen’s take on the Hornet (who is, in canon, the Lone Ranger’s descendant), the film’s greatest weakness seemed to be a refusal to take the hero seriously, turning him into a buffoon with a hyper-competent partner who handles everything.  While that makes for a great parody of the super-hero genre (see also Hong Kong Fooey), it doesn’t necessarily make for two-and-a-half hours worth of action movie, especially when the film is marketed as a straight-forward super-duper movie.

The MS-QOTD (pronounced “kee-moe-sah-bay”) thinks that we are seeing a little residual comic-shaming in play, especially given that the most successful movies of the genre go to great lengths to make themselves exceedingly dark and “serious”, asking:  Why do you think that Hollywood movies are ashamed of the super-hero genre?

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  1. comicfan1974
    July 8, 2013 at 11:44 am — Reply

    I’m sure there are many reasons but just to suggest one: it’s partly because the people who produce these movies are mostly very wary of seeming uncool or of pandering to what they see as too niche a market, and so without the focus of a serious filmmaker like Christopher Nolan (who, even if he may be a bit skeptical of the superhero genre, takes his own movies very seriously) producers panic and feel like they have to acknowledge how “silly” it all is to draw in the “non-nerd” crowd. This must be a deeply ingrained syndrome with them, since a series of bombs over the years doesn’t seem to have shifted the attitude yet.

    • Elise
      July 8, 2013 at 9:50 pm — Reply

      I definitely agree. It seems like there are only two options. If you don’t give it a “realistic” treatment, then it has to be overly silly and lampshaded. There’s no way to just have a movie and take it seriously as it is.

      On top of that, I think Batman and Spiderman got to keep their dignity because they are more familiar- so it’s easier to convince people to take them seriously. Unless they’re really invested in the original, what do people know of the Lone Ranger aside from “Heigh ho Silver”? Or of the Green Hornet besides that Bruce Lee was Kato?

  2. July 8, 2013 at 11:57 am — Reply

    If Lone Ranger is anywhere near as bad as the Green Hornet, I won’t go anywhere near it. That’s one of the worst movies I’ve ever seen.

  3. Dino
    July 8, 2013 at 12:15 pm — Reply

    It may be a generational issue. At a given time, comics generally were silly and “just for kids”, so the perception of older and unfamiliar filmmakers is skewed toward that perception. These people also are latching on to the idea that super-heroes is just a fad. Which it may very well be. Newer generations of filmmakers like Joss Whedon or Zach Snyder typically don’t have this kind of baggage, so it might get better with time.

  4. July 8, 2013 at 12:26 pm — Reply

    Because the Hollywood crowd are basically snobbish elitists that once they become “stars” or “big time directors” no longer understand what today’s audience wants to enjoy or what they grew up reading and watching. They’re too busy trying to outdo each other’s looks, spouses or charity work while all trying to be “serious actors”. The other issue is that the producers take actors that they think are “perfect” for the part because they were popular in something else (cough…Green Lantern…) and shove them into the character. Ryan Reynolds would have been great as Deadpool but was a terrible Hal Jordan, IMO. Christian Bale worked as Batman. Robert Downey, Jr. OWNS Tony Stark. “The Green Hornet” had no redeeming qualities whatsoever. It was as bad as “Superman Returns” and I HATED that movie. Egos prevent the studios from looking at characters from the comic/pulp/radio genre as anything but quick money makers and not “art”.

  5. Oldcomicfan
    July 8, 2013 at 7:39 pm — Reply

    Adam West carrying a giant bomb with a shark on his leg. That scene sums it all up. I really can’t say if it’s because the directors, producers and script writers hold comic book readers in contempt, or if they don’t understand their audience, or if they don’t understand the material. When you look at what they did to Wild Wild West and the 80s Lone Ranger reboot, I suppose it’s more of a surprise that we get GOOD comic book movies like the Dark Knight trilogy and the Avengers series given the long history of terrible comic book movie adaptations. Speaking of which, back when The Hulk and Wonder Woman were on TV (let us never mention The Flash or The Thor TV shows ever again) Marvel produced a pilot for a Doctor Strange TV show that was never picked up, but it you ever get a chance to see it, it was awesome compared to the other superhero fare that was offered back in the day.

    As for the new Lone Ranger movie, I already knew I was going to give it a pass when they billed it as a comedy/adventure. That should have telegraphed to everybody that the studio either did not respect or did not understand the source material. The Lone Ranger (and the Green Hornet, for that matter) were NEVER comedies!!! And, excuse me, Johnny Depp as Tonto? Okay, the guy supposedly has Native American blood, but really? Did nobody in Hollywood have the stones to stand up and say to the producers or directors – “Er…. Let’s not. And maybe you ought to give your therapist a call…”? Having Johnny Depp play Tonto would be like getting the Three Stooges to play the roles and Hamlet and then wondering why the audience was outraged…. Somebody certainly should have done the same thing when some genius decided that Will Smith would be the perfect James West. Both Depp and Smith are fine actors, and I like a lot of their work, but use some common sense, guys!!!

    Of course, nobody had the stones to tell George Lucas that Jar Jar Binks (and the Ewok specials) were a really, really bad idea, either.

  6. July 8, 2013 at 8:56 pm — Reply

    I think it’s at least partly because heroes like Superman and the Lone Ranger represented an ideal of incorruptible good. Something that Hollywood producers and stars need to mock because they can’t live up to it.

  7. AllenBT
    July 8, 2013 at 10:42 pm — Reply

    I think you’re postulating that because Hollywood doesn’t take this genre seriously and is somewhat embarrassed by the source material, it inadvertently sabotages these movies, by trying to play up the comedy or focusing on the wrong tone.

    Let me offer a different take on your question. Maybe it’s because contrary to their own hype machine, most of Hollywood, from Actors to Directors, to Camera People and technical staff, to the suits that make the decisions, simply just aren’t that talented. And what talent they do have is in a very narrow comfort zone.

    To be frank the majority of Hollywood movies are bad, forgettable and derivative at best, whether they are rom-coms, sci-fi, horror, or action movies.
    Superhero and nerd-centric movies are no different from other movies. If this year we get two good ones (IM3 and Superman) in a field of roughly 10 offerings, we probably did better as a percentage than most other genres.

    For instance, it’s a very rare year that features more than perhaps one decent romantic comedy, from a field of perhaps a dozen movies. The only difference here is the thud of the failures is much louder, due mostly to the size of the budgets.

  8. B.V.K.
    July 8, 2013 at 10:48 pm — Reply

    I don’t think Hollywood is ashamed of a genre that has made them billions of dollars. Rather I think that only a select few in Hollywood have the background to do it well. People like Joss Whedon, Guillermo Del Toro and Jon Favreau understand what it takes. As a result we get movies that are neither overly silly or dark (Avengers, Iron Man, Hellboy). Of course since no one in LA/Hollywood can ever admit they are not awesome at everything, you get people who are not equipped to make a good comic adaptation. Also, since the first decent super movie (Batman) came out 24 years ago I dont think its fair to call these films a fad anymore. Given they may not have come out as consistently as they do now, but they have been around,

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The Author

Matthew Peterson

Matthew Peterson

Once upon a time, there was a young nerd from the Midwest, who loved Matter-Eater Lad and the McKenzie Brothers... If pop culture were a maze, Matthew would be the Minotaur at its center. Were it a mall, he'd be the Food Court. Were it a parking lot, he’d be the distant Cart Corral where the weird kids gather to smoke, but that’s not important right now... Matthew enjoys body surfing (so long as the bodies are fresh), writing in the third person, and dark-eyed women. Amongst his weaponry are such diverse elements as: Fear! Surprise! Ruthless efficiency! An almost fanatical devotion to pop culture!

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