Tuesday, September 15, 2015

"The Revenant" might change the way movies are made, but at what cost?

Make no mistake, guys: I'm excited for The Revenant. It's got everything that I need in a movie right now, including camera work by my boy Emmanuel Lubezki, lots of people running around in bear-skin clothing, actual BEARS, and Leonardo DiCaprio in another intense role that he probably won't win an Oscar for, even though he completely deserves it. It's got Tom Hardy. It's got action, revenge, old-timey guns. I mean hell, it's got this trailer.

But it's also got Alejandro Inarritu. And yes, oddly enough, that might just be a bad thing.

Inarritu got a lot of recognition really quickly earlier this year when his little film "Birdman" won best original screenplay, best director, and best film at the 2015 Oscars. It was also, coincidentally, one of my favorite films of the years. Accolades aside, though (because let's be honest, awards mean nothing in the scheme of things) it was a really impressive film, both technically and in terms of the performances strangled out of its actors. The cinematography was just delightful to watch, and no other movie has made me said "woah, yeah, ok, Emma Stone can really act." It was great.

Fast forward one year and here we are, with another Inarritu film garnering buzz just as awards season lumbers towards us. This one is based on "actual events," and centers around the fur trapper Hugh Glass (played by DiCaprio) after he is mauled by a bear, robbed by his friends, and left to die. You had me at "actual events."

One of the big selling points for the movie, for film nerds at least, is that the whole thing has reportedly been shot using only natural lighting. A second look at the trailer shows that this just might be the case. Lubezki has also been utilizing more of the long takes that he so enjoyed in Birdman and Children of Men, so combined with the lighting, this movie seems like it was probably an ungodly pain in the ass to make... And that's the problem.

Reports from the set have literally called it "a living hell." And who could blame them. If even half of the stories coming off the set of the Revenant are to be believed, then it's time Inarritu stops, takes a deep breath, looks at himself in a mirror and says "what the fuck is the point of it all." The full report from the Hollywood Reporter is right here in all it's glory, but reports include: asking actors to go without hats and glove in -40 degree weather because it was supposed to be autumn in the film, dragging a naked character along the ground with debatable safety precautions, and cutting holes in the necks of wetsuits so that characters in water looked like were actually submerged.

A lot of blame has been thrown around, but it ultimately comes back to Inarritu and producer Jim Skotchdopole. Other issues with the film included scheduling dates (Hardy was forced to drop out of Suicide Six due to an elongated Revenant schedule), weather problems, and miscommunication. All of this leads me to ask: ultimately, at what cost are you willing to make a good movie? Right now, I'm sacrificing sleep and possible good grades in other classes so that I can do an extra bit of location scouting. I'm kind of sick, but whatever, I'll deal with it. But if we're to believe some of these reports, the crew of the Revenant were more than just a little uncomfortable or chilly: they were potentially in danger.

I've said this in past blog posts too, but I'll say it again; it's so incredibly important to put things in perspective. Yes, the Revenant may revolutionize the way movies are shot, and yes, maybe it'll end up being my absolute favorite film of the year. Maybe of all time. Maybe it'll finally get Leo that Oscar. But you can never forget, through it all, the things that really matter. Nobody in the film industry benefits from reports like these. Art is great, yeah, but never outstay your welcome.

1 comment:

Matt Lynch said...

Another cool (/terrible) thing is that they supposedly shot it all in order from beginning to finish. That led to a lot of the scheduling conflicts that you were talking about all while they had to deal with that Ithaca-esque weather.