Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Why I'm Sick of "The Revenant," Even If It's Not Out Yet

Leonardo DiCaprio and the non-rapist bear in The Revenant
Listen, I am looking forward to December's onslaught of movies as much as the next person. I acknowledge that we've seen a lot of great stuff so far. With December 25 being yet another day with an embarrassing amount to offer, it seems like director Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu's The Revenant is taking up a lot of attention. It does make sense, as initial reports started drizzling in last week with many giving mixed-to-negative reviews of the director's follow-up to Best Picture winner Birdman. To be honest, I did want to see The Revenant. I've gone on record before of thinking that Leonardo DiCaprio is one of those last great movie stars. However, I have to confess, I am SICK of hearing about this damn movie. The recent allegations about a bear raping scene just pushed it over the edge for me.

I must admit that compared to every other film this season, I have seemed to have been down on The Revenant since this summer when reports filed out that the production was having some disastrous setbacks. Considering that I generally loathe films that are out of control behind the scenes (see: Heaven's Gate), I was immediately pessimistic. I held out hope however that things would come together. Then, those words spawned from that interview where the problems also first appeared. The Revenant is going to be an awe-inspiring achievement. It's going to be something unlike anything that cinema has offered before. Considering that the story involved a man receiving major damage to his genitals and DiCaprio boasting about how hard he's worked, I've mostly begun to wonder "Is this art, or masochism?"

I wrote a piece last week exploring deeper why I don't think that sacrifice for a role is necessarily an Oscar guarantee. To be frank, it's actually a detractor. I know very little about The Revenant beyond the trailers and that interview. I know about DiCaprio's sacrifice. If we're going based off of this logic, then actors who sacrificed their health would be winning every year. They don't. I understand that this is the start of The Revenant's major Oscar push (and its attempt to not just be lumped into "the other western" category once The Hateful Eight pops up), but I am already sick of the notion that sacrifice trumps talent. The only reason that we're talking about this is because DiCaprio is talented. He has been for over two decades. I still think that people are more focusing on what he does as opposed to how he does it.

Which brings me to my growing issue with this film. It's being billed as the extreme experience. It's going to be something that is awe-inspiring visually and show us something savage and insane. It's the selling point, practically: "Come see this wild new film because it's rad. You'll never guess what DiCaprio does in it!" To me, that's shady clickbaiting. It's more annoying because it's fueling a trend I loathe in which audiences are primed to expect certain things instead of just experiencing it. I'll admit that the trailers alone are doing a good selling. To have everyone basically saying "He sleeps in animal carcasses, swims in freezing water, etc." is to take away the experience of discovery. Even if there's a lot more to this film, you're forcing me to accept that he MAY get raped by a bear.

Basically, I know that The Drudge Report is a shady source as it is. Their commentary that DiCaprio gets raped by a bear twice seems too ridiculous to be true. However, it's too much of a spoiler if that was true for me to give a damn about accuracy. I see a bear mauling him in the trailer. I will expect something more. If that was rape, then let it be rape. Just let me experience it without knowing what it is and isn't. Fox Studios has since shut down the rumor, which is perfectly fine. It's poor journalism as per usual. But it's still the question "Was this necessary?" I get Fox wanting to protect their image, but I still think that DiCaprio and Inarritu are doing far too much harm to their product by making cinematic clickbait interviews where they reveal the big attractions.

I am sure that I will see The Revenant. I am sure that it could be enjoyable. It's just that this marketing to call it the most extreme movie ever is slowly making me care less and less about it. To me, the marketing and Oscar push has evolved from "This is a cool movie." to "Check out this totally awesome movie. X and X happens." This is generally the notion as to why I ignore marketing materials. Yet this is just as much fueled by marketing as it is people wanting this film to be something greater than it likely is. Maybe it's great. I don't know yet. I just know that telling me what happens saves me the time from seeing what happens for myself. It's not a great idea. As much as I am able to ignore spoiler culture, I cannot understand why the makers would want to ruin it firsthand. Yes, The Drudge Report isn't firsthand, or even a great resource. However, the very idea that there's anything akin to bear rape in that film makes me wonder "Is this film art, or masochism?" I don't know, and if I learn anymore, I likely don't think I will ever choose to know.

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