A revenant is someone who has returned from the dead. It’s also often quite a difficult enemy to defeat in role-playing games like D&D. The Revenant is a film about men with beards and would make a good advertisement for frozen fish if it weren’t far too long. There’s easily a half hour to an hour of material that could be removed and this would make it a much better film – one I might even recommend.
The dream sequences and attempts at reflection need to go. They just don’t work. Even what I’d say is the most important scene thematically – one in which a brief moment of laughter is shared – seems comically out of place and more than a bit silly. Silly is what it’s supposed to be but it’s still cringe-worthy and forced (snow flakes). Essentially life is what you make of it, be that joy or misery. Those who do us wrong will probably come to some sort of sticky end if they continue wronging people. That’s enough of that, now let’s go and watch hours of a man being mangled in various (and often not survivable) ways…
It isn’t as bad as you’d think. It is grim and it is gory, but not most of the time. Within the first hour The Revenant has mauled you and punched you in the stomach several times for good measure. Just to get your attention. After that… it holds your attention but meanders off down river, becoming a procession of stuff that happened. Not all of this is very interesting. The scenery is often spectacular and remains quite nice throughout.
One of the best things about The Revenant is that there’s very little dialogue. DiCaprio grunts his way through quite a lot of it as you enjoy his snowy surroundings while perhaps laughing or rolling your eyes after he survives yet another surely-terminal mishap. It’s never as incredible as what Indy gets thrown off in the risible Kingdom of the Crystal Skull but I did have a feeling of déjà vu. There’s a brief Terrence Malick-esque scene with some ants that might have worked if the film fully embraced its silliness and had the ants carry our revenant away for their supper. As I’ve said, the Malick bits just don’t work. There’s nothing but feather-headedness behind them as we go through the motions of sombre reflection for no particular reason other than the pretence of depth. This is a film that would be much better if shorter and if it wore its lineage on its sleeve – best enjoyed as a companion piece to Predator that gets funnier the more indestructible our Terminator becomes.
There’s CGI and it shows. The two others I saw it with didn’t agree but I thought the bear didn’t look very good, especially when you concentrate on the contact between it and DiCaprio during their play-fighting ballet. In fairness, it is decently done but looks fake, nonetheless. They really did try but showing less might have made it more believable, if perhaps less gripping. The other CGI stand-out is the bison, which just look stupid. I liked the dinosaurs in Malick’s The Tree of Life – perhaps they should have joined in the frolics? Potential for a sequel?
The acting’s generally quite good but nothing to hand out awards over. The cinematography might be worth one, though, provided it isn’t cheating to ram a film so full of endless and beautiful landscapes.
Lying on frozen ground is not a good idea. You can’t sleep. It seems minor but out of all the survivability questions, I really do wonder why so many of the characters are fond of a good night’s sleep on ice or snow. It’s not just about not getting any sleep – you could die, to boot! One other odd and perhaps nit-picky thought I had was that when the film shows us some panoramic views as its characters cross over mountain tops… they are going over the mountain tops rather than using the passes and valleys much lower down. Of course the camera cuts out quite a bit of the surroundings but I’m fairly sure that the route-finding skills of our bearded, fish finger salesmen are suspect.
So… I did enjoy The Revenant. Or, I watched it without ever disliking it and was sometimes riveted. I found it funnier than most probably would because it’s so full of itself and it can be full of shit, especially when it’s trying to be more than it is. Those bits don’t last long, however. If the lull in the middle of the film was cut I’d recommend it. As it is, I don’t recommend it, but wouldn’t try and dissuade anyone from watching it either. Especially those who fall asleep for the second hour.