I have a confession to make. This is tough, but it’s important for me to be truthful about it to my colleagues, my family, my readers… and most of all, myself. Here goes: I am a serial killer.
Whew. Feels good to get that off my chest.
I didn’t realize it, of course. I guess when you’re truly sick, you don’t know; it all seems normal to you. I was just going through my daily life, doing my job, caring for my loved ones, engaging in what seemed to me a perfectly average, everyday routine. But then I saw this video of Lone Ranger stars Jonny Depp and Armie Hammer and producer Jerry Bruckheimer talking about what I, and people like me, had done to their precious baby:
Before Yahoo UK-Ireland allowed these brave victims to speak out, I had no idea what a monster I was! I feel like a convicted felon at a sentencing hearing: sometimes you really don’t know what you’ve done until you hear it from those you hurt.
For example, from Armie Hammer, I found out that I and my critical brethren have “been gunning for our movie since it was shut down the first time” — that, in fact, that’s when we “wrote [our] initial reviews.” You guys, I don’t even remember doing that! Is this one of those murderous blackouts I always hear about? It must have been, because Johnny Depp knows our dirty secret too: “I think the reviews were probably written when they heard Gore (Verbinski) and Jerry (Bruckheimer) and I were going to do The Lone Ranger. I think they started their opinion then. And then their expectations were that it must be a blockbuster. I didn’t have any expectations of that. I never do.” (Yes, critics heard that their movie cost $250 million and assumed it was a blockbuster. What were we thinking?)
Producer Jerry Bruckheimer was also privy to our mean, nasty writing process: “I think they were reviewing the budget, not reviewing the movie.” Mr. Hammer agrees: “If you go back and read the negative reviews, most of them don’t have anything to do with the actual content of the movie, more what’s behind it.” You see, we were all soooo obsessed with the stories of inflated budgets and out-of-control production that we decided ahead of time that we hated the movie, so we reviewed the production instead of the amazing movie they made, and nobody went to see it! Just like we did on Jaws and Apocalypse Now and Titanic.
You see, we let that giant budget and those tales of production woe blind us to the movie’s many exemplary qualities. According to Mr. Depp, it’s a “brave” movie, with an “absurdist, independent” streak that nobody noticed, because of the shiny objects of crashing trains and giant explosions. You see, according to director Verbinski, amid a summer of sequels, giant robots, and flying superheroes, they’re a scrappy little bit of “counter-programming, so if you want to see something different, come see the movie, and it’s odd to be given a lashing because of that.”
He’s right! The sequels and robots and superheroes have received all the critical praise this summer, and The Lone Ranger’s fellow “counter-programming” movies, like Blue Jasmine and The Spectacular Now and Before Midnight and Frances Ha, have similarly come under critical wrath for not being more like those superhero sequels we love so much. As Bruckheimer notes, “The critics keep crying for original movies, and then you make one and they don’t like it, so what can I tell you.” I have to say, the truth hurts here. Bruckheimer and crew went and made an original movie (based on an 80-year-old character previously heard on the radio, seen on television, and featured in three earlier theatrical films, and crassly marketed as an unofficial Pirates of the Caribbean), and all we did was hate all over it!
“It’s unfortunate because the movie is a really terrific movie, it’s a great epic film,” Bruckheimer tells me. “It’s one of those movies that whatever critics missed in it this time, they’ll re-review it in a few years and see that they made a mistake.” I feel a little silly about this; here I thought I went and just disliked the movie because of its sloppy storytelling, bloated running time, lackluster humor, and muddled identity politics. But I was wrong — it was actually awesome, and I’ll catch up with it eventually. Or maybe I won’t; as Hammer says, “it’s gotten to an unfortunate point with American critics where if you’re not as smart as Plato, you’re stupid. And that seems like a very sad way to have to live your life.” Sad-face.
But there’s good news: we may be heartless, brutal killers, but we can be stopped. “They tried to do the same thing with World War Z,” Hammer said. “It didn’t work, the movie was successful. Instead they decided to slit the jugular of our movie.” Such evocative language! I hope we didn’t make too big a mess! Me, I usually prefer to put a big plastic tarp down, to make the clean-up easier. Anyway, yes, that World War Z cleverly escaped from our clutches — by going off and being a pretty good movie, and thus getting far better reviews. We really screwed the pooch on that one.
As you can imagine, coming to terms with this information about the murderous instincts of my profession is going to take some time. And I could make excuses — pointing out that such critical whipping boys as Grown-Ups 2 and The Hangover Part III and Now You See Me have all grossed well over $100 million this summer, for example, while last year’s most critically praised film, Holy Motors, grossed $600K. But I should probably just accept the role assigned to me by these fine actors and master storytellers, as the bloodthirsty, mustache-twirling villain of cinema. After all, critics can’t make a movie, and they certainly can’t break one. But we do have one vital role to fill, now and forevermore: as the scapegoat.