I don’t think I’m claiming any great wisdom to say that my first reaction to the Lone Ranger cancellation was pretty much, “well, duh?” It’s not exactly reading the most obscure of tea leaves to think that after such a painful flop as Cowboys & Aliens (despite big marketing, big names, and big effects), any blockbuster that seems the least bit dusty is going to get the stink eye at studios these days– especially one that was looking for a +$250m budget.

Things might still be a little nebulous though, as insider reports have been quoted as saying Monday (today) could bring different news. Well keep our ears perked up today, but chances are this project is scrapped, even if Johnny Depp was especially enthusiastic about it.

The weirdness of this whole thing is that a) turns out that stupidly large budget may have been due to a werewolf-centric blockbuster effects approach to the story, and b) Depp’s passion for the blockbuster may have stemmed from his desire to do right by a Native American character. Those two are actually innately combined, as apparently this take on the story would have had Depp’s Tonto front and center, leading the way through a story filled with mysticism and magic, all stemming from the Native American spirituality that would inform the story. So ultimately less Zorro and more Pirates of the Carribbean, even if Johnny Depp was supposedly interested in a very delicate, nuanced look at the Native American culture, combined with a much less ostentatious performance than he delivers on the high seas.

Also: much of Depp’s interest is attributed to his desire to fulfill “his Marlon Brando” legacy…

“Deep is partly Native American himself and he was partly mentored by Brando, who was a big Indians’ rights advocate. So he didn’t want to do any kind of jaunty performance that plays it light and spoofy with the Native American thing. No Captain Jack crap this time around.”

So obviously this was more than just mining an old brand, but affixing a known name and set of characters to a blockbuster story that mixed a Bruckheimer approach to big-scale adventure, with the esoteric interests of Depp. That sounds exactly like the kind of project that would develop between typically lucrative trifecta of Disney, Bruck, and Depp, but as films creep closer and closer to costing half-a-billion, all in, to make and market… we’re going to keep seeing these big-budget shutdowns and cases of studio cold feet.

I’m sure more details will shake out over time, and I wonder when we’ll be reading the tell-all book about the “The Great Studio Shut-Downs of 2010” with chapters for Mountains of Madness, and The Dark Tower before Lone Ranger. I don’t see this trend reversing though… seems the true rotting core of this country’s economic situation has finally spread and touched the typically unflappable studios, curbing their usual desire to dump truckloads of money into the dumbest shit, as long as it’s BIG.

I’m interested to hear if there is anyone out there that was particularly disappointed, or particularly pleased to hear this project take the hard fall. Comments, boards, twitter– use ’em!

Source | Deadline, THR, and Hollywood Elsewhere (via BAD)