Worth it if you’re into forced glorification of a way of being that should not be
I should have known. Another Hollywood scheme for blowing things out of proportion and boosting the human ego. In nauseatingly predictable anthropocentrist terms, The Revenant tries to get you to care about its protagonist, trapper Hugh Glass (Leo DiCaprio) with a past of living among the Indians. The guy lost a wife and is on some insane expedition with his “half-breed” son and a bunch of goons in a forest in which they barely belong. Wife, son. Get it? Family equals love. You must care!
But things go bad for this particular trapping expedition, especially for Glass, you might think if your eyes are half closed and your brain half shut down. Thing is, they never go quite as bad for Glass as they do for the horses he steals, the huge bear a few steps away that he fails to identify until she thinks he’s going to fuck with her cubs (such trapper talent), the fish in the river whose head he bites off before he does a mean savage face, or the bison he and his Indian buddy somehow fail to cook even though there’s a fire going on right next to them which to do it. Because we need a scene of hungry folk choking on some raw liver. Sure we do, Hollywood. We also clearly need someone to gut a dead horse and get butt-naked and crawl inside it for warmth and then to pat the carcass one last time before he moves on. “Thanks for letting me take a nap in your entrails, hon. You’ve been a good horsie.” Dude, you just stole that horse 3 minutes before she died because of you. The effects of Hugh Glass. He shows up, you die.
All this shows you: these people don’t belong there. They bring with them a fucking mess. And yet, this movie is about them and only about them. It is about making them look good, despite all their charming flaws and shortcomings. And Glass? Well, he’s the new John McClane. Remember John? The guy that can survive it all when regular folks would be dead 50 times over? That’s Hugh Glass for you. Hugh McClane. Inspired by true events my ass. Inspired by the events at Nakatomi Plaza. Willis has passed the torch.
There’s also the minimalist soundtrack that somehow still attempts to manipulate you into feeling sorry for the Hollywood star. Notice, if you check this movie out, how the music plays when Leo is on screen. Thing is, the forest breathes more easily when he’s not.
The forest–and I as a viewer–actually prefers the presence of one of the only redeeming characters in The Revenant, Mr. Tom Hardy, bless this man. Hardy plays the movie’s antagonist, and he does a swell job of portraying an unabashedly dickish, ruthless and cowardly character. He’s got his good reasons for being a bigot and traitor. He’s the only guy that seems to understand the “What the fuck are we even doing here?” element of the movie’s setup.
Maybe the Indian tribes once fit. But now they’re into domestication and trading and guns, and the horses as usual get the short end of the stick. By the way, if someone wrote a decent history of horse representation in cinema, it’d be a history of bloodshed and abuse that now goes unseen as they are made to carry people’s asses around, whether or not those asses are even alive. All these magnificent creatures broken and made to forget what freedom is.
I can already hear all the rifles rubbing against hunters’ crotches after they see this movie. It’ll make them feel good. The other animals are right where they’d want them: at the end of a gun or the blade of a knife, or, in some particularly porno/graphic scenes of over the top violence, at the teeth of a trapper, all raw and deliciously (in)digestible.
The Revenant is long and has a lot of blood spilled in it. There is nothing particularly wrong about that: you want to be patient and see life unadorned. But this movie uses both of these elements not, as it might seem, to further a naturalistic sense of being in the wild, but to craft an all to familiar story man vs. wild, with the wild serving as fodder for the inflation of human exceptionalism.