Wednesday, July 22, 2015

A Look at the Disastrous Behind the Scenes of "The Revenant"

One of last year's most renowned movies was director Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu's Birdman. It was a film that was technically impressive, choosing to mix editing together to create the vision of a singular take. It was a story that created a stream of consciousness flow to it and ended up winning him Best Director and Best Picture. With his ambitious next effort The Revenant, he plans to do more audacious things in the filmed medium that he promises will wow the audiences. While it has a Christmas Day release planned, it is proving to have its share of problems. The biggest one? It isn't anywhere close to finishing its shooting.

It is likely that you saw The Revenant trailer last week and were highly impressed. I sure was, and I felt that it looked like one of the most enjoyably insane movies of the year. According to a new story released by The Hollywood Reporter, its production also seems to be somewhat of a chaotic nightmare. This period piece starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Tom Hardy is developing quite the reputation, even so far as making some unknown crew members state that the experience is "a living hell." For the sake of brevity, I wish for you to consult the story for all of the details. It is a phenomenal expose and explains everything that is happening.

To summarize the filming technique is to start to understand the problem. Inarritu's initial plan is to shoot the script chronologically and with natural lighting. This is fine until you realize that shooting in the woods, where there's mere hours of daylight a day starts to cause problems. The budget has ballooned and the film is reportedly going to shoot into August. For scenes that require snow, it was impossible to replicate or bring in. There's been reports of injuries and with uncontrollable weather, things are already out of hand. As it stands, Hardy had to cancel his involvement with Suicide Squad after film delays in December started providing trouble. Considering that the film was expected to finish awhile ago, that's just one of the many struggles that may make its release seem less plausible.

While Inarritu claims to be aware of the various obstacles that he is facing, he also claims that he is passionate about what the final product will look like. He claims that the scale will be very impressive. Speaking as he is one who enjoys to challenge the film medium, he may not be wrong about scale. There's a lot of potential that his naturalism will actually pan out. However, that doesn't excuse the production history which is already turning into a legendary kerfuffle on par with Cleopatra, Titanic, Apocalypse Now, The African Queen or Heaven's Gate. In all cases, the films eventually got made, but the back stories behind them are arguably more fascinating.

Which makes for an interesting question: Is this going to be any good? Having cited a few examples, I do believe that the track record of directors overcoming obstacles for their art has often been more successful in quality than in box office totals. As it stands, producers are estimating that the shooting schedule's extension will push it from its initial budget as to as high as $120 million. Speaking as Birdman only made $102 million in its run, there's really no hope of not predicting that it will in some capacity bomb. This may end up influencing its Oscar chances, even with Inarritu coming off of a Best Picture win. 

The most interesting part is that this is a film that wants to do everything the old fashioned way. That is to be applauded. The bigger question is if it will pay off. Considering that director Michael Cimino did similar things with Heaven's Gate after winning Best Picture for The Deer Hunter, the prospects aren't necessarily the highest. Maybe Inarritu will be right and this will be pretty good. Maybe things will only get worse. Who knows. At this point, I will be fine with it being a flawed masterpiece akin to Gangs of New York, where there's greatness in the flaws. This news may not stop me from being excited about The Revenant, but I am more cautious now than I initially was.

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