Liberal Blockbuster Busts

Ben Shapiro is a Senior Shillman Journalism Fellow at the David Horowitz Freedom Center and Editor-in-Chief of TruthRevolt.org. He is the author of the new book "The People vs. Barack Obama: The Criminal Case Against the Obama Administration" (Threshold Editions).


hkHollywood is in trouble.

Some of that is thanks to the shifting methods of distribution and production in moviemaking; it’s cheaper than ever to make movies, and it’s cheaper than ever to sit home and watch them. That means that studios are interested in churning out huge-budget films that simply demand to be seen on the big screen, rather than streamed via Netflix six months later.

Which is fine. The problem is that of late, Hollywood’s big budget flicks are missing more often than they’re hitting. And that is thanks to Hollywood’s continual desire to slap Americans across the face with liberalism.

Take, for example, The Lone Ranger. The Johnny Depp-starrer was misbegotten from the start, a bloated $250 million effort that couldn’t figure out whether or not to take itself serious. The original Lone Ranger was John Reid, a Texas Ranger who was ambushed by desperadoes and left to die, but survived thanks to the help of Tonto, a Native American he had saved as a child and who then became his sidekick. In the movie version, however, Tonto is the hero of the piece, and Johnny Depp plays him as an honorable man far too lofty for the hijinks of the white men. Depp said that the movie was “potentially an opportunity to right the wrong” of Tonto being relegated to sidekick status.

Depp told the press, “What came from the idea of Tonto, and I talked about from early on, is he’s a man apart. He feels that he’s done horrible acts upon his people and is ashamed and he goes out on his own to avenge that. It’s the only thing, to be able to try to show these people who, as I said before, are warriors, even in the face of some hideous corporal smacking them around or shooting them in the foot or raping their women.”

There is no doubt that the treatment of Native Americans was often brutal. But the notion of the “noble savage” put forth by the left is both patronizing and historically inaccurate. The Comanches – the tribe of whom Tonto is a member, according to Depp – were particularly brutal to settlers.

The film also attempts to downplay the importance of guns – an odd move for a Western. In a key scene, the Lone Ranger refuses to take a gun into an ambush.

The film misses the mark on all fronts. Nobody under the age of 60 remembers the Lone Ranger. They remember the Lone Ranger as manly and certain, not a tool of Tonto’s and not an individual who shrinks as much from violence as from romance. It’s no wonder that the film is slated to lose $150 million at the box office.

The Lone Ranger isn’t the only misfire. The Channing Tatum-Jamie Foxx flick White House Down, which casts Foxx as the president and white guys as the terrorists, cost $150 million, but earned just $26 million in its opening weekend. That film is chock full of liberal tropes; it says that terrorism is caused by poverty, that defense contracts are behind all military engagements by the United States, and that conservative radio hosts are morons. “Corporations are in bed with radical regimes,” says President Sawyer (Foxx).

Then there’s Pacific Rim, where monsters escape from the ocean’s crust thanks to – you guessed it! – ozone depletion and pollution. The film was outgrossed by the Adam Sandler pic Grown-Ups 2, which currently sports a 6% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, compared with Pacific Rim’s 72% rating. Ouch. After Earth, the Will Smith vehicle positing humanity’s ruination of the earth (again), fell apart, too.

So, which summer blockbusters have done well? Man of Steel blew the doors off the box office with a traditional take on Superman, glorifying America and individualism while condemning everything from population control to top-down societal control by our betters. Family-friendy flicks like Despicable Me 2 and Monsters University also provided solid performances.

In other words, if you’re going to spend big, don’t let your leftism take over the script. That’s a lesson that those in Hollywood have yet to learn, even though they’re paying for it dearly at the box office.

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  • Guest

    I think it’s unfair to lump Pacific Rim in with the rest of these movies. The pollution bit gets a *single* mention in the entire 2 1/2 hours, and even then only briefly. It is never the focus of the film nor does the film blame human progress for the Kaiju invasion. In fact, the film celebrates traditional values.

    It celebrates human ingenuity. Only by rising to the occasion and stretching the limits of human creativity can they create new weapons that even stand a chance against the Kaiju. That weapon is the Jaegers, giant robots driven by pairs of pilots.

    It celebrates the traditional family. All the Jaeger pilot teams are comprised of siblings, fathers and sons, or straight married couples. The reason for this is because Jaeger pilots must work together in tandem to pilot the robots. They share a neural network while in the Jaegers and must have complete trust in one another if they want to fight effectively.

    Finally, it celebrates the power of the individual. The governments of the world are portrayed as meddling, obstructive bureaucrats, who would rather risk the lives of millions than actually fight the enemy that seeks only to destroy humanity. When the funding is pulled from the Jaeger program, the commander in charge of the operation bluntly replies that they don’t need the approval of governments to do the right thing, and then he goes about finding others to fund the one thing that can keep humanity safe.

    Calling Pacific Rim another bit of liberal schlock, because of a single line in its entire 2 1/2 hour run, does the movie a great disservice. Its celebration of the power of the individual, the ingenuity that arises when governments get out of the way, and the power of traditional family (plus the pure fun it puts on the screen) go a long way in making it one of my favorite movies this summer.

    • Pharmagator

      Well said! Huzzah!

    • JoJoJams

      I’m not much in to pop culture and such, but, I must admit, your synopsis here nudges me towards wanting to check out Pacific Rim. Sounds worth a look/see renting the DVD anyway.

    • jackwoodson

      Jaegers and Kaijus… oke doke. Any Smurfs?

    • northerncanuck

      Well, any other details to relate? Saved me the price of a ticket and sitting through an enjoyable movie.

  • OfficialPro

    I am under 60 and I remember the Lone Ranger. Reruns for the win. Plus Filmation’s Lone Ranger/Zorro Adventure Hour in 1980!

    • Sharps Rifle

      I LOVED that show! And do you remember the steampunk-ish 1960′s Lone Ranger animated show? I wish I could find THOSE on DVD!

  • JeffWRidge

    Could someone please tell me how a western could cost $250 million to make? Were the saddles made out of gold? Did they use real silver in the Lone Ranger’s guns? Did they take the horse’s name “silver” literally and have the Ranger riding a large silver statue of a horse? Did they film it on the moon? Seriously, how could it cost that much?

    BTW, I’m not 60 (yet) and I remember the Lone Ranger. In fact, recently I’ve been watching the old 50s show on Cozi TV. It’s been a real blast from the past.

    • Fritz

      As I recall only the Lone Ranger’s bullets were supposed to be made from silver, not his guns, even so silver only runs between $25-35 a troy ounce, for $250 meg you could buy a lot of silver to make bullets with.

      • JeffWRidge

        Yes, I know. I was being facetious. I’m also pretty sure that Silver the horse was not actually made of silver and that they didn’t film on the moon.

    • guestwho2

      It was difficult to obtain shooting locations that didn’t have illegal alien encampments visible in the background.

    • Marks2Cents

      Like ALL liberal initiatives, eliminating the truth (guns, etc) making up things, and advance falsehoods costs money, man!

    • objectivefactsmatter

      “Could someone please tell me how a western could cost $250 million to make?”

      I had a hard time staying awake for this silly flick so I didn’t notice anything in particular. It depend on how much travel they did in remote locations I guess, but the biggest expense would have been salaries.

      The other thing that might have run costs up would be train the crashes. Maybe they actually wrote off trains rather than going with digital effects.

      The other thing you can find discussed is that the budget was once higher until some of the stars accepted a pay cut.

      But yeah, Hollywood films are not always produced by the most practical people. They make money once or twice and suddenly it’s very difficult to say no even to some seemingly arbitrary decisions.

      Personally I thought the film was a complete flop. I’d rather watch “Unforgiven” again, or something a little more realistic. Fantasy Westerns always suck. At least it wasn’t as bad as “Wild Wild West.”

    • Flitandersen_99

      Well, there are the incredible salaries of the stars of this stinkeroo, then there’s the chartered jet travel, the caviar, the gor-may BOO-FAY tables, the limos, and – OH! We mustn’t forget the Oscar campaign. THAT could run $15-$20 mill ALONE! Now you know why you need to take out a small loan to take the family to the movies. Assuming there were any you’d want your family to see!

  • Chez

    I recently checked all 250 documentaries available on Netflix. Most were apolitical, but of the almost two dozen films that had politicized themes, EVERY SINGLE ONE was propagating liberal/left views. ‘Global warming’ was a major theme; films ridiculing Christianity and patriotism were prominent; Hitler, Nazis, and American racist groups were also prominent. Nothing on Stalin, Mao, or Pol Pot….and nothing on Islam that wasn’t naked apologia.

  • davarino

    I hate preachy movies. Especially preachy movies that are trying to sell me a load of BS. If your going to do a remake, then remake it. What, are you going to make a movie with Tonto riding a jet pack instead of a horse? I know, instead of arrows he could have RPGs
    Blah

  • tagalog

    I saw “R.I.P.D.” yesterday. It sucked too even without a political message.

    More on topic, I believe it was Sam Goldwyn who said, when asked about Hollywood making movies with social significance back in the Great Depression, “If you want to send a message, call Western Union.” The great movies were made by people who want to tell a good story and hopefully make some money doing so, not make a political point.

  • popseal

    It’s not the leftists in power, but the immoral morons that keep voting for them that is the problem. Weiner, McCain, Feinstein, Graham, Obama, Bush, Clinton on the national scale and whoever our local reptiles are remain in power because we are too ill informed and naïve, and mostly too lazy to do better. Way to go America, keep doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results…dolts.
    No wait, that’s the wrong rant for this article. Give me Clayton Moore and Jay Silverheels any day. The Johnny Depps and their reprobate leftist friends need to go away, like to Cuba where they have commonality.

    • ltcdmward

      RE: Cuba. How about ‘Che Gueverra and the (Bolivian) Rangers’? Downside: The storyline has already been included in other movies. Upside: Ending not good for Leftists, so it will be a hit?

  • Sharps Rifle

    Ben, while I can concur with most of what you said, it isn’t true that “people under 60″ don’t remember the Lone Ranger. I’m under 50, and I remember him QUITE well! On local television (when such existed beyond “happy talk” news and interminable infomercials) back when I was about 12, two stations ran Lone Ranger re-runs. One station ran color episodes from the late ’50′s (along with The Cisco Kid…man, Duncan Renaldo was cool!) on Saturday afternoons, and the other ran the early black and whites on Sunday mornings (followed by Hopalong Cassidy). The color episodes of the Lone Ranger showed Tonto as being as brave and heroic as the Masked Man, although still using “Hollywood Indian” English.
    For all it’s flaws, and they were legion, the 1981 “Legend of the Lone Ranger” DID depict both Tonto and the Masked Man as heroes…and Michael Horse (who played Tonto in that movie) was the first to make Tonto EXPLICITLY Comanche…and respectfully Comanche, I might add (Horse is himself Yaqui, as I recall). Depp knows squat about Native Americans…the Comanche were called “the Agnostics of the Plains,” and had basic spirituality prior to Quanah Parker’s involvement in the founding of the Native American Church and introducing them to the Peyote Road.
    Hollywood has forgotten how to make a good western. Except for “Tombstone” and a select few others, the western is moribund. It’s a form we need…but we need good ones, not rejects like Depp and Bruckheimer’s pile of garbage.

  • Armando

    I wouldn’t pay a penny even to rent that piece of rubbish of a movie. Besides the blatant liberalism oozing out of every frame (a bit of exaggeration, I know), the problem is Johnny Depp, behind all that grotesque makeup. Give me Jay Silverheels sans makeup as Tonto anytime. The truth is I find Depp’s acting, at best ,mediocre. In all his recent films he needs to hide behind tons of mascara and makeup as if to cover up his acting shortcomings.

  • hrwolfe

    Young Ben, I am 58 and I greatly remember the Lone Ranger! Clayton Moore made personal appearances even after they banned him from wearing the mask due to the first bad remake. So I am fairly positive he did this through the 70′s so you can be much younger than 60 to remember, fondly, to remember the Lone Ranger. Oh you young people!

    • Johnnnyboy

      Yeah, the original Lone Ranger lived the part, and went around making appearances after the production was over. Lets see, he had a dog named Bullet and a horse named Trigger. And guess what, he supported the Second Amendment.

      • Fritz

        No, you are getting the Lone Ranger mixed up with Roy Rogers, whose films were more of an excuse for him and Dale Evans to perform a musical number. Roy Rogers had a horse named Trigger and a dog named Bullet.

      • Flitandersen_99

        C’mon, man! HI-O SILVERRRRR!!! AWAYYYYYYY!!!!

  • Johnnnyboy

    The core problem with a remake of the Lone Ranger is that it is no longer acceptable for Tonto to be the inferior to the Lone Ranger. Tonto has to be redefined in some way. Getting that sorted out should be a precondition to any remake.

    It kills the formula if you make Tonto and equal and kills it even worse if he becomes the superior to the Lone Ranger. Aside from spending more money than necessary for the production, they never got the role of Tonto sorted out in a workable way. Instead they avoided the issue by making both men unlikely in how they acted. I would suggest making Tonto an older, more corrupt, more practical man who none the less admires the Lone Ranger’s idealism. That would allow Tonto to play a supporting role without being inherently deprecating to his person.

  • Fritz

    This wouldn’t be the first time a Lone Ranger remake movie was a flop,
    they took a stab at it in the early 80′s and it bombed as well. The
    studio lawyers even put a stop to Clayton Moore making public appearances as the Lone Ranger, it did not help the film at all. The Lone Ranger serials and 1949-57 TV show, were still being aired as re-runs in some places, and even where they weren’t it was still within everyone’s recent memory at the time, introducing a New and improved Lone Ranger was doomed from the start. So to at least two generations of fans Clayton Moore was the Lone Ranger and Jay Silverheels was Tonto.
    With regards to the Tonto character I never got the impression that he was merely a sidekick to the Lone Ranger, he was more or less an equal partner, and a friend, who was not subservient at all. Jay Silverheels, the actor who played Tonto, was a member of the Mohawk tribe I believe, he was actually a champion Lacrosse player. At the time it was a groundbreaking role for a Native actor on television, much along the lines of what Bill Cosby and Greg Morris were in the 1960s. Unlike Johnny Depp he did not have to play an Indian and “interpret” their mindset, he was one.
    I don’t really understand why “Liberal” Hollywood would try to rework the Lone Ranger, he and Tonto traveled from place to place helping people and fighting injustice, one would think they would like that?

  • tanstaafl

    Go see “Much Ado About Nothing”. Nobody disses the Bard.

  • Roywil

    Funny, I watched many a Lone Ranger show as a kid and I never thought of Tonto as a “sidekick.” More as a loyal friend in a team built on mutual respect and trust. Guess I missed that dog whistle.

    But that’s where Hollywood has it wrong. It missed the original’s grabber: A team dedicated to helping strangers by righting wrongs, despite their differences in skin color and cultures. Now *that* is a powerful and appealing storyline.

  • mommom

    “The Lone Ranger” also picks on kids with the birth defect of cleft lip and through extension, anyone else with facial scarring. The villain, named Cavendish, is described on the Disney website—a website geared toward children–as “a ruthless outlaw whose terribly scarred face is a perfect reflection of the bottomless pit that passes for his soul.” The scar is a cleft lip surgery scar.

    This is a very different situation from cartoon characters that all seem to cause their hideous deformities in pursuit of evil in a secret laboratory.

    A cleft lip is a common birth defect that happens when the two sides of the clip do not fuse during the first trimester. A cleft lip can occur on one side of the lip
    or both, and with or without a cleft palate, where the roof of the mouth may be
    open to varying degrees or missing entirely (a total open palate). I’m just going to provide two quotes from Smile Train, an organization that provides cleft surgery for the poor:

    “Clefts are a major problem in developing countries where more than one million children are suffering with unrepaired clefts. Most cannot eat or speak properly. Aren’t allowed to attend school or hold a job. Being born with a cleft in a
    developing country is truly a curse. Every baby born in Uganda with a cleft is
    given the name Ajok which means literally, ‘cursed by God.’ with some newborns killed or abandoned right after birth.”

    I have a daughter born with a cleft lip. Luckily, her scar is barely visible and she
    is a beautiful girl. But when I take her to the craniofacial unit of the hospital that did her palate work, I see kids with cleft scars that are still visible, vulnerable kids that Disney has targeted for negative assumptions about their character, and for teasing and bullying.

    The hospital runs a summer camp for kids to help with self-esteem and confidence issues. Maybe “The Lone Ranger” is trying to drum up their business.

    And of course, kids and adults can acquire facial scars from a wide variety of injuries.

    The U.K. cleft organization CLAPA raise the alarm about the site. Lego is apparently producing “Lone Ranger” villains with exaggerated clefts.

    We did not see “The Lone Ranger.” When preview ads came on TV, my daughter and I both thought it looked awful. Later, reviews were terrible. Now, I’m relieved that we didn’t see it. Nor have I mentioned this movie portrayal to her.

    But what happens if she goes to the “Lone Ranger” site? What happens if a bully at someone else’s school goes to the site? What if the movie is shown in
    Uganda and another baby named Ajok is killed? In the West, some babies are actually aborted for cleft.

    What amazes me is that no one involved in the production of the movie or the Disney website or Lego figures, or at least no one who counted, apparently raised any concerns about using a physical birth defect to illustrate bad character. That’s a terrible ethical blind spot.

    It’s not even mentioned in this article. I don’t know if that’s because cleft surgery is so successful here or pundits were so focused on the Native American issue or because the audience simply ignored the cleft scarring motif or because no one saw the movie. Perhaps using cleft as a shortcut contributed, even on a subconscious level, to the movie bombing.

    What’s supposed to happen when someone gets the bright idea of giving the bad guy a birth defect that illustrates and stands in for his bad character: everyone says “no.”

    Disney should scrub the reference to “terrible scarring” on its website. Legos needs to halt production of the toys and create a villain without scarring.

    Compared to “The Lone Ranger,” this video is Shakespeare and the Bible rolled into one:

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/04/15/little-girl-cleft-lip-surgery-smile_n_3085529.html

    • JeffWRidge

      I was unaware that the movie people had done that. That is truly despicable. I had not planned on seeing the movie because I have given up on Hollywood ever being able to bring back old movie franchises that remain faithful to the originals. You’ve just given me another reason to avoid it.

      I wish you and your lovely daughter well. True beauty comes from within; everything else is superficial and fleeting.

  • Broder

    Thanks for the heads up FPM. I almost went to see it this past weekend.

    • Flitandersen_99

      Nah. Not me. I’m on to “Commie-wood”….

  • Philo Vaihinger

    I liked it better when the cowboys were the good guys.

  • Buddyz

    I have never understood why investors would put up money to do a movie that unnecessarily offends 47% of the electorate and use actors and actresses who go out of their way to offend the 47%.

    I always was taught that the customer is always right and not to offend them.

    • Flitandersen_99

      Oh, well you see, YOU didn;t assume all your customers were MORONS.

  • acidulous

    Sorry, but Johnny Depp looked like a tricked out drag queen playing Tonto for Halloween. What the hell is with that get up on his head? I didn’t need to read your summation of the film to know exactly where is was going. White man bad. “Native American” (barf alert), all wise and knowing. If someone gave me a ticket, I trade it for some nice beads and a trinket.

  • Roy_Lofquist

    Joke from my childhood (Lone Ranger on radio):

    The Lone Ranger and Tonto make camp on the prairie. About midnight Tonto awakens the Lone Ranger and asks him what he sees. The Lone Ranger says “I see a million stars – heaven in all its glory – what do you see?”. Tonto: “Somebody stole our tent”.

  • tagalog

    Johnny Depp’s blackbird headpiece is the dumbest piece of costume I’ve seen in a long while.

  • mickeymat

    The Lone Ranger-with his faithful Indian companion, Tonto, the daring and resourceful masked ride of the plains led the fight for law and order in the early west. Return with us now to those thrilling days of yesteryear. The Lone Ranger rides again.

  • TDubin

    So they made a movie elevating the status of the Native American character … by having him played by a white guy?

  • PAthena

    The self-designated language police have dictated that American Indians cannot be called Indians because Columbus made the mistake of thinking that he had discovered India. Should Greenland be renamed since it is snow and ice-bound? There are, in fact, no American Indians in India (unless they visit). The term invented to refer to American Indians – Native Americans – is even sillier. Anyone born in the United States is a “Native American.”
    I enjoyed the Lone Ranger when it was a radio program long age. Tonto was his faithful Indian friend.

  • Johnnnyboy

    >>White man bad… – Pretty much what I was thinking. They could fix this if they would pass on the counter propaganda of making the Indian better. It would be a matter of how to re-define the Tonto character. It could be done and still maintain the, shall we say, legend of the Lone Ranger.

  • DevilsTrumpet

    As you know Ben,this left-wing rubbish is not confined to the movies but network television as well.I’ve given up watching both.The egregious thing I find is the grossly overpaid actors who believe it’s their right to preach to the public with a “do as I say,not as I do”attitude and use the”Do you know who I am?” card,assuming that they are above the law.The music industry is no better.I’m tired of “entertainers” who discover the environment and tell us the we have to live with less while they live in massive homes with an array of vehicles,bringing out a Prius just for photo-ops.

  • Leviathon67201

    Well, let’s go through this one at a time, shall we? After Earth… Crappy M. Night Shayamalan movie staring Will Smith, the black version of Nicholas Cage, as in, he makes shitty movies. Had a budget of $130 million, made a final box office gross of over $240 million. The Lone Ranger… Crappy adaptation to a beloved franchise with casting issues concerning a white guy playing a hyper-stereotyped Native American character, that white guy being Johnny Depp, another shitty actor known only for playing goofy roles in crappy movies. Had a budget of between $225-$250 million, had a box office gross of over $260 million. White House Down… Decent action film made by a liberal film maker known for his liberal films with an outrageous plot and good action. Budget of $150 million, box office gross of over $205 million. Pacific Rim… An original script utilizing several niche genres of nerd culture made by a fantastic director with perfect cast with action scenes that put all others to shame in one of the best sci-fi movies ever, a genre that has historically held liberal positions. Budget of $190 million, box office gross of over $411 million. They’re not exactly tanking, now don’t you think? And the movies you gave as counters… Grown Ups 2… A shitty lowest common denominator comedy film with a shitty cast with low-brow and shitty humor. Budget of $80 million, box office gross of $246 million. Man of Steel… A disappointing adaptation to a cartoonish character getting the same gritty bullshit redub that Batman got with annoying subtext towards Christianity, against evolution, and a scene with such a break in character as to ruin the film for all fans of the character. Budget of $225 million, box office gross of over $687 million. Despicable Me 2… Animated feature targeted towards children in an unnecessary sequel to an actually good movie. Budget of $76 million, box office gross of over $970 million. Monsters University… An unnecessary prequel to one of the best animated movies of all time. Budget of $200 million, box office gross of over $743 million. Let’s see… The shitty movies did shitty, the good movies did well, and the movies that are pretty much nothing but publication companies printing out money from established franchises doing unimaginably well? Yeah, that’s all pretty predictable. Nothing to do with whether the film had a liberal leaning or not.