'Lone Ranger' reception another setback for old-time heroes - FOX5 Vegas - KVVU

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'Lone Ranger' reception another setback for old-time heroes

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This publicity image released by Disney shows Johnny Depp as Tonto, left, and Armie Hammer as The Lone Ranger, in a scene from "The Lone Ranger," opening July 3, 2013. (AP Photo/Disney Enterprises, Inc. and Jerry Bruckheimer Inc., Peter Mountain) This publicity image released by Disney shows Johnny Depp as Tonto, left, and Armie Hammer as The Lone Ranger, in a scene from "The Lone Ranger," opening July 3, 2013. (AP Photo/Disney Enterprises, Inc. and Jerry Bruckheimer Inc., Peter Mountain)
LAS VEGAS (FOX5) -

In the coming days, many an article will be written about the disappointing performance of Disney's "The Lone Ranger."

The $225 million western bowed to less than $50 million over the Fourth of July weekend, a rare misstep for star Johnny Depp and producer Jerry Bruckheimer.

While writers will wear out their keyboards chastising the pair, the only one who might never recover could be the Ranger himself.

If audiences don't make this current flick profitable -- a Herculean task given its budget -- Lone Ranger will join the list of old-time radio and pulp heroes who had their shot at movie stardom and stumbled badly.

The list already includes The Green Hornet, Brenda Starr, The Shadow, The Phantom and The Spirit.

You could also throw in Flash Gordon, whose 1980 adventure performed poorly at the box office, although it has developed a cult following and boasts a rocking Queen soundtrack.

In the Ranger's case, he's 0-for-2, following 1981's "Legend of the Lone Ranger," a film sunk by pre-release controversy and a star whose lines were overdubbed by another actor.

Lone Ranger and his brethren come from an era few Americans remember. These were heroes created pre-World War II, who were starring in their own radio programs and daily comic strips before Hollywood came calling.

When it did, many of those characters -- Lone Ranger among them -- found their way into the movie serials of the day, and they stayed popular for years, even as Superman, Batman and Spider-Man came to dominate the comics landscape.

While many of these old-time characters are still appearing in comic books today, attempts to bring them to the big screen have famously fizzled, with "Ranger" being the latest casualty.

Granted, many of the recent adaptations haven't been very good. Revival films have suffered from miscasting (Klinton Spilsbury in 1981's "Legend of the Lone Ranger"), bad timing (opening "The Phantom" the same weekend as "The Rock") or a general "who's that?" reaction from audiences ("The Spirit").

It's true, these characters are old, and even Superman-sized budgets aren't enough to drive the needle with younger moviegoers who are used to heroes with super powers.

In "Ranger's" case, it's a tough sell reintroducing a character who adheres to a strict moral code, making it impossible for him to become a brooding loner.

Perhaps it was a matter of timing? Did the "Ranger" team wait a few years too long?

Audiences showed they were willing to embrace old-time characters when Zorro returned to the screen in 1998's "Mask of Zorro" and 2005's "Legend of Zorro."

The masked swordsman's revival came courtesy of Steven Spielberg, who also had a hand in creating the greatest (and most financially successful) film character from the pulp era: Indiana Jones.

Depp and Bruckheimer brought that kind of star power to "Lone Ranger," along with director Gore Verbinski. Together the three made pirate movies cool again, who could argue they wouldn't do the same with Lone Ranger and Tonto?

Now, as sequel plans are most certainly quashed, fans will have to wait around for a "Ranger" reboot.

That could take awhile. After two movie misfires, it's unlikely Lone Ranger will get the "Incredible Hulk" or "Amazing Spider-Man" treatment in this decade.

However, Hollywood isn't finished mining the past for tomorrow's would-be blockbusters.

Next on the list of old-time heroes ready for their close-up: Doc Savage. The pulp hero was last seen on the big screen in 1975, although the film didn't win over new fans or please old ones.

Maybe "Iron Man 3" director Shane Black can make Savage a household name again. If he's successful, it could give a boost to characters like The Shadow or The Phantom, heroes trying to make the leap forward from a place that doesn't exist anymore.

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