Here’s an interesting turn of events: Days after Johnny Depp and Armie Hammer took critics to task for the colossal failure that is The Lone Ranger, a fellow A-lister is coming to their defense to say that there’s far too much scrutiny on tentpole pictures in our digital age.
Mark Wahlberg basically plays the tired, generic “It’s-Just-A-Movie” card in an interview with the L.A. Times, saying that he understands why Depp and company complained about the press attacks on Gore Verbinski’s revisionist Western. Says Wahlberg, who has his own (much better) 2 Guns in theaters at the moment:
First and foremost, the media is targeting all these movies. There’s intense scrutiny on us, way more than before,” the actor said, eventually shifting some of the blame on the marketing efforts of major studios.
Wahlberg’s candor is appreciated. And he’s exactly right in saying it’s not one single element that is contributing to the demise of a given blockbuster. Marketing, release-date window, contemporary events in the actual news headlines … all of these can play into the success or failure of a potential hit. What Hollywood has proven, over and over, is that the quality of the overall film contributes most to a movie’s success rate. And Lone Ranger isn’t a very good movie.
Take another example from this past summer: Brad Pitt’s World War Z. By all accounts, it was supposed to be a disaster. Pitt didn’t get along with director Marc Forster. Screenwriters Damon Lindelof and Drew Goddard were called in to apply bandages to a broken third act. But when the movie started screening, critics and audiences bought in to the finished product. Now, the film’s a global hit.
If critics had such influence, as Depp and Hammer claim, why has Adam Sandler’s Grown Ups 2 (7% Fresh on Rotten Tomatoes) earned $117 million domestically … $31M more than Lone Ranger? Couldn’t the media torpedo that disaster, as well?
But even Wahlberg realizes that blame ultimately needs to rest with the filmmakers, and this quote to the L.A. Times about Ranger is pretty priceless:
"They’re spending $250 million for two dudes on a horse? Where’s the money going?”
Great question. I also find it funny that Wahlberg’s essentially laying the groundwork for future complaints when the media potentially turns on his next blockbuster: Michael Bay’s fourth Transformers movie. The Pain & Gain star teases to the Times that Bay has upped the character development in his sequel, which he believes will help it stand apart from failures like Lone Ranger. And if it tanks? Wahlberg will have a precedent to bitch, moan and blame the critics.