Friday, January 15, 2016

The Revenant

After yesterday's thoroughly enjoyable flick experience, I was hoping to write another one today for this pic.
I was also hoping to win the Powerball and become a billionaire.
Both hopes turned out about the same.

Despite this being Leonardo DiCaprio, I hoped that he'd finally settled down to start making the movies I think he's probably capable of doing, with some years and seasoning under his belt. Evidently, he thinks he does his best work when near freezing to death.
He is mistaken, as was I.

Director Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu's would-be epic tale of survival in the frozen frontier of early 1800's America (and after all, who better to helm such a story than someone from the frozen wilderness of...Mexico? WTF??) is Leo, and a thoroughly unmemorable cast of redshirts, who mainly die off in droves to add some sense of urgency to this Hollywoodized tale of life and brutality in the wilderness.

The villain, some forgettable piece of porkchop who in both the real life 1800s, and five minutes into the movie, would have been picking his teeth off of someone's rifle butt, plays his role as an unredeemable douchebag to the hilt, which is also how he finally goes out, albeit 2 hours too late to suit me. Surprising me not a whit, he has no notion of wound care lore from no harder to find mention than the biblical parable of the Good Samaritan, some 1800 years prior, but he does manage to drag God into his excuse for every shitty and villainous act he performs in the flick. Why the studio didn't just make him a child-molesting Catholic priest or a huckstering Protestant con man, and get it over with, is beyond me, but I'll bet someone in Tinseltown is kicking himself right this minute for not going there.

In fact, I've made no secret of the fact that in the utterly shitworthy flick Gravity, by 10 minutes into the movie at most, I was rooting for the debris to kill the entire cast. This movie is Gravity set in the Rockies in the early 1800s.

In true Hollywood fashion, the white men are all worthless, land-raping, Indian-hating, baby killers, while the native tribespeople are all just humble misunderstood noble savages, practicing sustainable living and low-impact low-carbon-footprint subsistence living in harmony with Mother Earth and Father Sky.

The token couple of decent white people are inept, while the Indians are ninja masters of stealth and Chris Kyle-esque archers, and the slob trappers only capable of laying around getting drunk, raping Indians and the wilderness, but bereft of such wilderness rudiments as map-reading, wayfinding, hunting for food, or basic care for injuries.

If he wasn't Leonardo DiCaprio, the Glass character would certainly have died from the collection of dogshit, buffalo chips, mud, piss, and other concoctions slathered on his wounds, sustained by a notable CGI-palooza of a grizzly bear attack, which underlines the salient point that .50BMG is not too much gun for such an encounter. Fortunately, when he's too weak to carry on, burning with fever from infected grizzly wounds after his mauling, and liable to die, his companions helpfully bump, bang, and clatter him all over hell and gone with naught but the bear's skinned hide to protect him from freezing temperatures. No one feeds him or gives him drink (they even leave a gaping hole in his throat to make such care impossible until he thoughtfully adds gunpowder wounds to the hole in his throat (because charred flesh always heals better than a clean cut, right?), but even after being abandoned by his companions (including the Villain - who could ever have seen that clever plot twist coming from Minute 5 of the movie? Okay, every swinging Richard in the theatre, we'll grant you... But Suspension of Disbelief, right? Right??) he helpfully crawls some miles on his belly, navigates down a 500 ft cliff, and then is helpfully revived by bouncing over rapids and rocks after a hasty immersion in 33-degree snowmelt to escape the avenging Indians.

Then he builds a wicked-clever textbook rock fishtrap, but has to resort to catching them with his hands instead of say, using a sharp pointy stick amidst lush forests, and eats them raw rather than slog the 10 feet to his campfire to cook them, because, fuck, I dunno...Gollum...??

Then, fat on trout or salmon, let alone motion picture craft service, he is forced to drag his raw-fish-eating ass to beg for food from a helpfully provided friendly Indian feasting on a convenient wolf-killed buffalo. Which same ravenous wolves somehow managed not to notice Leo's sleeping and injured ass 20 yards away. Evidently Leo didn't smell as bad in the wilderness as the writing does in this steaming pile.

Not to worry though, because after being the only effing one in the entire Great White North to know how to build a brush shelter during a blizzard, the friendly Indian gets whacked by more eeeeeeeeevil white men, the same ones who've kidnapped the Indian girl to serially rape for entertainment while trading with the Indians who killed the American white men because they were looking for the ones who stole the Indian woman who...oh, sweet suffering shit, White Men Bad, Red Men Noble, I get it! Quit beating the audience over the fucking head with that club in every scene, for fuck's sake!

Mind you, you can't take your eyes off the scenes. Because the director and the director of photography are co-conspirators in shoving the camera lens so far up the actor's asses you can see the lens fog when they fart. Apparently they only had 2 lenses, one a wide angle used to get panoramic shots of whereverinhell they shot the wilderness scenes, and one a 2000mm telephoto so they could show you the paramecium crawling on Leo's nose hairs in half the movie, during which he utters no actual dialogue more substantial than grunts of impotent and infirm rage and pain as he struggles to survive to the next page of script, while the audience struggles to find a reason for living.

By the end of this movie, the audience still awake has survived an ordeal far more grueling than anything seen on screen, and the entire cast is so one-dimensional and uninvolving you just want the Yellowstone Caldera to erupt and engulf them all in a well-deserved flaming apocalyptic conflagration.
Then the movie ends, and you wish the same fate would befall the entire chain of jackholes who inflicted this gargantuan pile of offal on the screen, as just punishment. And you envy the bear for being dead, and missing most of the whole saga.

I had hopes that this would be a worthy successor to iconic masterpiece movies like The Big Sky, Jeremiah Johnson, The Outlaw Josey Wales, or Dances With Wolves.
Alas, it is instead kin with movies like Barry Lyndon, Heaven's Gate, Ishtar, and Waterworld.
Maybe they should have just gone with it, and named it Plan 9 From Outer Montana.

Don't see this in the theatre. Don't watch it on cable. Don't even wait for the DVD/BD, or even catch it on Netflix. Buy it bootleg from China for 50 cents, or better yet, wait for it to be on sale in the bargain bin at BigLots! or the 99 Cent Store, and use the discs to make shiny hanging bird-scaring devices for your wife's herb garden.

I won't even go into everything wrong with this beyond that, save this brief catalog of howlers:

No one builds any fire not large enough to roast half a buffalo in; even the Schmohawk Indians here build monstrous huge White Man fires.

Savvy trappers mount no watch. Ever. And can't hunt or fish to save their lives.

Keep showing the map, but keep repeating that only Leo knows how to get us back home. Then, inexplicably, get back without his help.

No one has the slightest clue how to treat wounds, despite such lore, miles from the glories of 19th century medicine, being rather acutely needful on a daily basis.

Indian arrows fly flat and straight, and punch through flesh like crossbow bolts, hitting targets from beyond human sight.

There's no need, camping and trapping among savages, to do anything important like watch a perimeter, pre-load your gear, or do much besides laze around 5-ft tall campfires wondering where room service is.

No one, white or indian, can track even Leo's wounded dragging ass as he crawls along the ground for miles and days, but the indians can miraculously find the evil White Men time after time, apparently by trusting The Force, or using Indian GPS, or some other magical plot device, because Screenwriters.

The Indians will track down an encampment of fifty white men with guns in the middle of nowhere, but when just twenty white men set out to find Leo, the Indians are nowhere around, because Magic Torches.

Indian Strategy: If we just kill enough White men, we'll find the Missing Indian Maiden.

Leo Strategy: if I make it through 37 Unbelievable Ways To Die, I find the Indian Maiden (by accident, because Foreshadowing) and Help, and The Villain, because Screenwriting x Top Billing = Had To Happen, Given 2 1/2 Hours.

When you can't write anything believable, have your star gurgle and sputter and drool, because Method Acting. For Two Solid Hours.

White Man Bad, Red Man Noble. 100 times on the blackboard, lest ye forget. Despite the fact that at the time of Beethoven, railroads, and steamboats, the equivalent Indian civilization "deserved" the land, having successfully slaughtered, raped, and enslaved each other in an endless Stone Age cultural gang-bang going back to the first pre-Eskimoes to navigate across the Bering Sea in prehistory, unencumberd by anything closer than 10,000 years to equivalent Western culture. Because hysterical Historical Revisionism.

My rating: This movie left me totally cold.

And don't bitch to me about spoilers.
This POS was spoiled when it came out of the package.
All I did was give it a sniff.


Irish said...

You should get an Oscar for your reviews.

Aesop said...

After watching craptastic features like this one, I'd just settle for my 10 bucks and 2 1/2 hours of my life back.

Irish said...

IIRC the last movie I saw in a theater was Cloverfield. 8 years or so ago.

I see they have finally got part ii ready

Anonymous said...

Don't sugar coat it....

Anonymous said...

Problem is, the birds here are too smart to be scared by DVDs.. which may make them smarter than the screenwriters from what you're saying ;)

martinla said...

I would point out that it was just bad filmmaking. You don't start a movie with a firefight when you haven't established - or don't very soon after - a sympathetic protagonist or protagonists. Caring neither one way or the other, we are disinterested whether the trappers or the indians win the firefight. 20 or 30 minutes in we still don't care about the DiCrappio character because he's done and said nothing to warrant it.

Many filmmakers have erred in the ways you point out - with implausibles, with white men bad/natives good, with little or even incoherent dialog - but have NEVERTHELESS, told a good story. The Revenant is just plain amateurish filmmaking.

It has always baffled me why people bother to sit all the way through bad movies, as if somehow staying until the end they "at least get their money's worth" - or something. If you get served awful inedible food at a restaurant, do you eat it all, rather than send it back? If you're given an undrinkably bad coffee at Starbucks, do you drink it down rather than send it back?

Of course, we wouldn't have your wonderful reviews if you didn't sit all the way through piles of shite like this. But please tell us that you occasionally, at least, go ask for your money back from the theater management. I saw an academy copy, and stopped watching after about 35-40 minutes. If I'd been in the theater I would have walked out and not wasted any more of my life watching bad storytelling.

Aesop said...

I was willing to give it the benefit of the doubt for about the first half an hour; after that, I was mainly sticking around to see how godawful it would be by the end.
And yes it was bad, but calling it merely bad is like calling the Hindenburg's maiden trip "a bit shaky" on execution.

This thing was breathtakingly atrocious, in ways that boggle the mind.
You have to wonder if they put LSD on the page corners of the review scripts to get it green-lighted in the first place.
And unfortunately, IMHO, the only way to truly catalogue the faults of something like this flick is to sit through the entire thing. The only reason for doing that, however, is to share the horror with others, as I've done.
If I wasn't bent on reviewing it for a (hopefully) wider audience in the first place, I'd have been out the door and at the mall by maybe thirty minutes in.

What's worse is that not only is it one of the most notably horrible pieces of fertilizer on screen that I've seen in some time, but that the horktastic crowd of fanboys is giving this entire mound of dung a tongue bath, daily, in print and other media.
I guess after the first few mouthfuls of crap, their taste buds lose sensation or something. I wouldn't know.

I only rarely ask for a refund.
But I make a point to tell the management in these cases what a pile of crap it is, and that I intend to spread the word far and wide.
That gets their attention more than anything, as they only make money when people show up, and they talk to their regional overseers as well.

martinla said...

I do like it when reviewers "get it" and point out the actual storytelling flaws, rather than - or as well as - things like continuity mistakes, bad acting, implausibilities, and such. All those other things to me though are secondary, after bad storytelling, because plenty of great movies have flaws like that but still manage to keep you engaged and want to watch them more than once.

My main beef with modern filmmaking is two-fold:
a) that so many filmmakers just do not know how to tell a story - as if nobody nowadays - least of all film students - watch, or have watched anything made before, say, 2000;
and b) the entire cultural aspect - i.e. politically correct, multicultural, left-leaning politics is just assumed as some sort of norm, and thus we have 100 pound girls who can beat up fit 200 pound guys, minorities and gays highly over-represented, and a tiny minority of movies made which don't buy into a ton of leftist tropes. All these things can be forgiven in small doses. After all, plenty of leftist politics made it into movies of the golden age of Hollywood, but the craft of storytelling was strong back then.

Mainly it's bad storytelling I cannot stand. The political and cultural fight is one that takes place in a wider arena. A movie discussion can quickly devolve into a political shoutfest if you take that route. I'd like more reviewers to dissect storytelling the way you often do, and for example the guy at RedLetterMedia does on youtube

Aesop said...

As my blog quote notes, I am a storyteller.

A movie without a story is just a bunch of producers and such standing in a circle, burning money by the wheelbarrow load, and manually self-pleasuring themselves to the conflagration.

Which mental condition, IIRC, deservedly has its own section in the DSM-IV.

O0000ooooooooooooooo said...

All good comments but the best was by martinla: "...100 pound girls who can beat up fit 200 pound guys..."

Man, this has been a constant pain in my brain for years. I regularly watched "NCIS" but when the character Ziva, who probably weighs 110 lbs. with rocks in her pockets, was whuppin'up on a very fit, very well-built combat marine, I had to quit watching the show. One knows liberalism will be in anything from Hollywood but this particular scene was just too damned much for me.