You’ve come far, Pilgrim*
Last Sunday I went to see The Revenant. As I sat in the theater and endured Leonardo DiCaprio’s seemingly endless ordeal (one &*$%-ing thing after another), I kept thinking of Jeremiah Johnson and how I’d rather be watching that movie, which after all had a point and actual characters. The one thing that made The Revenant worth my time was the fabulous scenery and cinematography.
The director does not. He was incredibly self-indulgent. Frequent hallucinatory dream sequences and references to other movies like Dursu Uzala and Star Wars (?) did not add anything. Nor did he seem to know anything much about the time period and people he depicted. The film gave no context: we don’t know when the movie takes place (the 1820s by my reckoning), where (Canadian Rockies?) or what the relationships are between the various groups (French trappers, British trappers, Americans? and Native Americans), who is in charge (military? private company?), or what their objectives are (other than to get fur). Doubtless that was supposed to add to the authenticity of our viewing experience. I just found it annoying.
Although purportedly based on the true story of Hugh Glass, the scriptwriter embellished it by giving Glass a half-breed son, so that he could include lots of a-historical racial prejudice and show how bad people used to be. He also apparently thought he needed to give Glass better motivation for revenge than just having been left for dead in the middle of nowhere.
Leonardo DiCaprio deserves an award for surviving, but not for acting (at least not in this movie). While it’s true that he proved amazingly versatile at grunting and grimacing in pain, and he can crawl and tear at raw meat with the best of ’em, one cannot call it acting. I bet he felt all of that pain, cold, and general ickyness. I kept expecting him to whisper “the horror, the horror.” And much as I like Tom Hardy, in this movie he was…Tom Hardy, the bad guy we’ve seen before. Moreover, it was often difficult to understand what he was saying. And the film score was entirely forgettable.
Now that I’ve torn it to shreds, I will say that I did not entirely hate the movie or regret the time spent watching it (seriously, that scenery is amazing). I guess the most damning indication of its weakness was that I never once forgot that I was in a theater watching a movie. I never connected to the characters enough to forget myself in their story.
Let’s all go watch Jeremiah Johnson, which has great scenery, lots of color, wonderful characters (super script), is superbly acted and directed, and has a really great score. In short, it has everything that The Revenant does not.
*Bear Claw (Will Geer) in Jeremiah Johnson
all pictures found on Google image.