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Sean P. Means: Bow before the power of the almighty movie critics!
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

It's another gorgeous day here on Mount Olympus, where I hang out with my fellow movie critics and gaze down on puny mortals.

(Here comes a satyr to refill my tankard of ambrosia. Not too much foam this time, my good chap.)

Oh, you didn't know that movie critics are actually gods who walk among you, and not the harried, overworked writers slaving over their keyboards the way the media present us? Well, maintaining that façade has been part of our secret.

But, alas, the mask was ripped from our disguise this week by a movie producer and a couple of actors.

During interviews with Yahoo UK-Ireland to promote the European release of "The Lone Ranger," producer Jerry Bruckheimer and stars Johnny Depp and Armie Hammer blamed critics for the Western's poor showing at the box office in the United States.

"I think the reviews were written seven to eight months before we released the film," Depp said. "I think the reviews were written when they heard Gore [Verbinski, the director] and Jerry and me were going to do 'The Lone Ranger.' "

Bruckheimer agreed: "I think they were reviewing the budget, not reviewing the movie."

And Hammer, who played the man in the mask, who referred to Disney's first attempt to shut down the film before Bruckheimer and Verbinski trimmed the budget: "This is the deal with American critics: They've been gunning for our movie since it was shut down the first time. … That's when most of the critics wrote their initial reviews."

As one of those lofty critics, I feel like I should take a bow. But I really can't take all the credit. I can't really take any, since I'm one of the 28 percent of critics, as compiled on the movie-review aggregation site Rotten Tomatoes, who liked "The Lone Ranger." We gods may be powerful, but we're not always in agreement.

From its opening on July 3 to last weekend, according to the website Box Office Mojo, "The Lone Ranger" has earned just under $87 million in North America. That's bad news for a movie with an official production budget of $215 million (and an unofficial one of much more).

And, yes, the industry talk about "The Lone Ranger" was loud before its release. There was also lots of talk about the cost overruns and extensive reshoots to Brad Pitt's zombie spectacular "World War Z" — another movie, Hammer noted, at which we critics hurled lightning bolts.

"They tried to do the same thing to 'World War Z,' " Hammer said in the same Yahoo UK interview. "It didn't work, the movie was successful. So instead they decided to slit the jugular of our movie."

Yes, "World War Z" was successful, having earned nearly $200 million since its release. This, despite being saddled with the atrocious Rotten Tomatoes score of … wait a minute, it says 67 percent. That can't be right. If gods made mistakes, I'd say this was a typo.

There's an old proverb that says, "Those whom the gods wish to destroy they first make mad." When the gods wish to destroy actors, we just let the poor idiots run off at the mouth.

Here's another gem from Hammer: "It's gotten to an unfortunate place with American critics where if you're not as smart as Plato, you're stupid. And that seems like a very sad way to have to live your life."

(Plato drops by Olympus sometimes. Smart kid, lot of good ideas. One time, we gods let him out of his cave and he went a little loopy, but that was just a prank.)

Actually, it's a great way to live your life. We critics sit up here, passing judgment on the movies we see. We used to point our thumbs up or down, Roman-style, but Roger Ebert and Gene Siskel kind of overdid that one. (Besides, their estates hold the trademark to the thumb thing — and if you want to see omnipotence, get a look at their lawyers.)

And, being gods, our opinions strike with the force of thunder and make the moviegoing audience tremble.

Look at how moviegoers cowered last month when we struck down Adam Sandler's "Grown Ups 2," giving it a woeful 7 percent on Rotten Tomatoes before it took in $117 million (and counting). Or how, on the same weekend, we smiled upon the mega-budgeted "Pacific Rim" by giving it a Rotten Tomatoes rating of 71 percent, as it went on to earn $93 million.

To a mortal, those topsy-turvy numbers may suggest that critics have nothing at all to do with box-office success. It even suggests that box-office success is a crap shoot, and that movie producers and actors should look elsewhere — even at themselves — when seeking excuses for their failures.

Ha, ha, you fools, that's just how we gods work. Since we never get the credit when a blockbuster succeeds, we have to keep filmmakers guessing about when we will bestow our favor. Otherwise, they may stop worshipping, and cursing, us.

Sean P. Means writes The Cricket in daily blog form at http://www.sltrib.com/blogs/moviecricket. Email him at spmeans@sltrib.com. Follow him on Twitter @moviecricket, or on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/seanpmeans.

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