|As a kid, changing schools 13 times in 11 years due to my father’s USAF career, I don’t have any “lifelong friends.” Just as you got to know somebody, either he was shipping out out we were. So, as the movers came to get our stuff, I’d pack a couple of brown grocery sacks (matching luggage!) with my important stuff … books.
I grew up on a steady diet of Batman and Superman, Sherlock Holmes and Conan, Captain America and Iron Man, the Lone Ranger and the Green Hornet, and John Carter: Warlord of Mars. Not only did my parents approve of my reading anything and everything, but these stories of good guys defeating the bad guys were acceptable morality plays that supplemented my non-fiction reading from the libraries where I devoured books about presidents and generals, explorers and inventors.
If any of those characters were on TV or at the Base Theatre, I was allowed to enjoy those, too. Dad even sat down with me when I was little and told me the whole legend of the Lone Ranger from when he and his brothers went to the Saturday serials to see the story. Until I was in high school, you’d have a hard time convincing me that the Lone Ranger wasn’t every bit as real as Wyatt Earp.
Tomorrow, I’ll go see Disney’s new version of The Lone Ranger and do so with some trepidation.
Here’s the problem with the way Disney handled both John Carter and The Lone Ranger … they don’t have respect for the original material. For example, Burroughs’ Mars books were contemporary to his Tarzan books and pre-dated Conan by Robert E. Howard.
The John Carter movie had the source material to be great but they should have marketed it as “Warlord of Mars,” as the comic books have done (at DC and Marvel in the 1970s and again at Marvel and Dynamite last year. Dynamite’s series has spawned several additional “Warlord of Mars” series while the Marvel/Disney comics had horrible art and were just unappealing. However, the original novels continue to be reprinted and have a good following in the sword-and-sorcery genre.
In like manner, the Lone Ranger “franchise” was successful in radio, movies (as serials and features), television and comics. The TV series even prospered when another actor, John Hart, stepped into Clayton Moore’s boots for a season during salary negotiations. The truly sad film version, “The Legend of the Lone Ranger,” could have been good but they had to overdub Klinton Spilsbury’s voice with Stacy Keach to make the new Ranger sound like a man. The new film looks to be very much “Pirates in the Caribbean” goes out west.
Now, I like Johnny Depp and have seen most of his work. However, right from the start, not having a native American play Tonto seems insulting in modern times. We know better. Having watched the original Dark Shadows when I was a kid (while living in Maine and thinking we were near the fictitious town of Collinsport), it was good-n-scary. I refused to see Johnny Depp’s version, but I have enjoyed his two takes on Hunter Thompson (“Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas” and “The Rum Diary”).
Since both The Lone Ranger and The Green Hornet share the same radio parentage, a side note is appropriate here about Seth Rogen’s version. It was a fun movie but didn’t do justice to the original product. Again, the comic book versions of the Ranger and his great-nephew the Hornet are quite successful. So, what’s the difference?
Older properties, like John Carter, the Lone Ranger, and the Green Hornet have built-in audiences in the baby boomers who enjoyed them the first time around. We are not interested in having Hollywood make fun of our childhood heroes. So, my peers and I will go see these films, hoping for the best, walk out quietly shaking our heads, and reluctantly buy the DVD for our collection but be unable to make ourselves re-watch it.
My suggestion to all of those “clever” Hollywood types … get that tongue out of your cheek and make serious films (which is why the Marvel movies and the Dark Knight series were successful).
Imagine The Lone Ranger directed by Clint Eastwood. You have the only survivor from an ambushed company of Texas Rangers. The lead character had come back from an Eastern education to join the Rangers and now he has to bury his brother. His only companion is an Indian man that was a childhood friend. Off they go on the retribution ride but not for vengeance but justice. Damn. That’s a helluva movie.
Some “Unforgiven” and “Outlaw Josey Wales,” just restrained to PG-13, because The Lone Ranger doesn’t kill. The Eastern educated Ranger and his wise companion Tonto (a partner, never a sidekick, like Kato is to the Green Hornet) would have lots of opportunities for cultural commentary and convenient comedy.
Too bad Disney/Hollywood is to clever to make that movie …