Did Hollywood Forget how to Make an Action Western?
I sit in my favorite local cafe, writing my normal writings, listening to my normal radio morning show and music, over hearing the old ladies in the room have their weekly meeting of discussing the latest scandals and tragedies in the world of racism, murder, sex, religion, and politics along with every other thing one should not discuss in gatherings all while sipping coffee, slurping soups, and nibbling on chips. Through all of this, even with my own writing, one question keeps popping into my head. A question that has been plaguing me since Monday afternoon.
Why did ‘The Lone Ranger' suck so bad?
Being a huge fan of movies, and having a general understanding of what makes a movie good and entertaining along with knowing what it is that ruins them while still breaking box office records, I can answer that question easily with a long list of things that was possibly wrong with 'The Lone Ranger' film. However, that is not my biggest concern. I know why the film sucked and why it is becoming the latest of major bombs from Walt Disney, but unlike 'John Carter' this one does deserve it for the most part.
If I know why it was bad and why it is bombing at the box office, then why am I still asking the question? Because I have realized I am not just thinking of just this one movie. I am thinking of every western I have seen come out in theaters in the last decade. Particularly the ones that are supposed to be action filled shoot'em ups. The ones that are to follow tough cowboys and lawmen as the hunt down bad ass desperadoes who deserve to be brought to the courts to be hung, or be shot while attempting to apprehend them. Films of thrilling chases involving trains, horses and covered wagons. The westerns involving the conflicts of frontiersman and native Americans as stone and steel clash over the land. Westerns that once ruled the country with actors like John Wayne and Clint Eastwood.
With Clint Eastwood mentioned, I will acknowledge that there are still some good western themed movies being made. However, these good westerns like ‘Unforgiven‘, ‘Open Range‘, and ‘The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford’ are more dramas and biographies than they are a true action film. Dramatic portrayals of men living and surviving in a land that is still in the middle of being tamed and civilized with just one or two real good gun fights, if any at all.
The last westerns I can recall being more action filled and still be good and entertaining are ‘Tombstone’ and ‘Young Guns‘. Both films are highly fantasized portrayals of famous historical figures of the old west. Where are these kind of movies now? Yes, they both were silly and even a bit campy deep down, but at least they did not have main characters talking to ghosts or wearing black and white face paint like a Juggalo the entire movie.
‘The Lone Ranger’ could of, and should have, been an excellent action romp, full of thrilling horseback chases, shoot outs, damsels, Injuns, and whiskey. Instead we got a sober Jack Sparrow with a crow on his head and still having more character depth and screen time than the titular character.
‘Jonah Hex’ also should have been a great action western, already having fantastic stories written for him from DC comics. None the less, since it is DC property, Warner Brothers had no clue of how to adapt this more obscure comic book title into a live action movie. The result was a bigger mess than ‘The Lone Ranger‘, but thankfully was a lot shorter. It was an insult to the people who worked on the original comic and created such a fascinating anti-hero. Only thing I agreed with in that film was the casting of Josh Brolin in the role of Hex. Why is it that they can make great animated shorts and cartoons of these characters yet do so poorly for the majority of the DC heroes in live action? Alas, that’s an article all its own.
So what is it that Hollywood has forgotten about of their past in making what used to be their bread and butter? Like horror films today, westerns used to be cheap to make and guarantee a profit. I do understand that westerns are not “the in thing” for the general movie going public, but I also don't think this is the main problem.
The one main thing I will address is that the movies have too much in them that do not need to be there. The producers and CEOs force things into movies that should not be there. The writers put in things that do not need to be there. The director adds things that do not need to be there. This is a problem for most movies.
There was numerous things in ‘The Lone Ranger’ that should never been included, like the poor and dumb excuse for the silver bullet that never even got used for it dumb purpose, the Red's Dancers, the bad placement of the William Tell overture throughout the climatic action, and the whole “nature out of balance” thing.(seriously, what the heck was with those rabbits?)
‘Jonah Hex’ suffered worse in the fact that they not only added things that did not belong, but the additional features changed the entire being of the original stories and characters. In the comics, Hex was just a bounty hunter with a tragic past in the old west, feared for his skills with the gun, his fists, and his ability to track down those wanted by the law. He did not talk to the deceased and torture their souls to get information out of them, the comics(least the ones I read) did not have steam punk weaponry, and they did not have Megan Fox.
This problem also adds to the budget needed to make these films. With all the added, un-needed material, it drives the costs higher and higher. Sure, high budget normally means better special effects and more eye candy, but is that what we really want in a western? If they left out the whole ghost talk thing in Hex, there would have been no need for about half of the computer effects in the film. The same thing with 'The Lone Ranger'. A Lot of the sets, costumes, actor costs, and props could have been dismissed and never made and used(and destroyed) if some simple things had been cut out of the script.
Maybe this really is the problem after all. Executives today are now going by the numbers. They are seeing what they think the audience wants, but never realize that those things us movie goers want does not belong in a film about cowboys in the 1800s. Why would we want these things in a movie that are going to be in the movie in the next auditorium, and be used in a more appropriate manner. An action film over all should be simple, fun, and thrilling without having to play dumb or be insulting to the viewers. This most of all goes with an action western movie where the general themes dwell on rescues, vengeance, or just simply a good guy in white hunting the bounty on a bad man in black. Maybe a hero with a unique look and style, like wears a mask and uses silver bullets. Maybe have a wise but fun companion to assist him, and have a musical cue for whenever an exciting chase ensues, and then lead into a thrilling ballad that goes with the action on screen.
How can something like that go wrong.