I want to love The Revenant so badly, and have ever since I saw it back when it first released in 2015. But…I just…don't. You don't understand; this has bothered me for years now, because I love Leonardo DiCaprio, I love Tom Hardy, and I love its director, Alejandro González Iñárritu. I also love westerns (especially non-traditional westerns that don't fit the norm), as well as meditative films that ruminate on the ideas of loss and vengeance.
So, why don't I love The Revenant, then? It checks off all the boxes for me, and yet...I just don't. Here's the most frustrating thing about this - I KNOW it's a great film. I even put it on my list of the ten best Leonardo DiCaprio movies, well aware that I don't really enjoy it all that much. This really burns me up inside since I want to love it! I really do!
But, I think I finally made some revelations upon my fourth viewing of it the other day, and I want to share some of those revelations with you. Why? Well, because misery loves company, I suppose. And not liking The Revenant makes me miserable! So, listen!
Oh, and spoilers up ahead.
It Was Filmed Almost Entirely In Natural Light, Which Is Really Impressive, But I Don't Think It Adds To The Film
I love Stanley Kubrick movies, and one of my favorite movies of his is Barry Lyndon, which is as beautiful as it is engaging. The reason why I bring that movie up is because it famously uses a lot of natural lighting, with some shots filmed entirely using candle light. This makes the film feel more authentic given the time period, and it's all the more interesting because of the setting being such a stand-out feature.
Mexican cinematographer, Emmanuel Lubezki, who also worked on Birdman, worked his butt off, I'm sure, to use so much natural lighting in The Revenant, as that's no small feat.
But…well, I find The Revenant to be a very dark film, even with all that snow, because of it. This is not necessarily a bad thing, but as much as I want to be impressed by the natural lighting of The Revenant, I find that I'm not. In fact, at times, I feel like I have to remind myself that the film is actually using natural lighting, and if I have to remind myself to be impressed, then I’m not actually impressed.
Leonardo DiCaprio Won An Oscar For This Performance, But I Think He Deserved It Much More For Other Movies
As I mentioned earlier, I listed The Revenant as one of Leo's best films, but I kind of feel like I had to since it's the movie that he won the Academy Award for. But, I actually find many of his other performances to be much more impressive, like his vicious character in Django Unchained, where he even used his real blood, or, his character in Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, who had that great trailer freak out.
In fact, I find Leo to be a much more interesting actor in most of his other movies. In The Revenant, he plays a fur trapper named Hugh Glass who gets mauled by a bear, is left for dead, and finds his son murdered. He then sets off on a quest for vengeance, which is fascinating in theory, but Leo gives a very patient and quiet performance. I know this is what is supposed to make it so powerful, but I don't think it's as good as the other two films I mentioned earlier.
In fact, to use a Gen-Z term, I find his performance in The Revenant to be kind of mid, which makes me wonder: Did Leonardo DiCaprio get the Oscar because he was really that good, or, did he get it because he suffered so much? I'm still not sure of the answer to that question, even today.
Tom Hardy Gives A Great Performance, But It's Lost On Me
Another one of my favorite actors is Tom Hardy, as I feel he can do anything. From Bronson to Inception to Venom, you put Tom Hardy in it, and I'll watch it. And I watched The Revenant, but…I have a hard time even understanding what the hell he's talking about throughout the film.
It's because he swallows his words. Yes, I know this is intentional for the character, however it just bugs me all the time when he starts talking about stuff like, "God is a squirrel," and it comes out sounding like "God is a Squirtle" to my ears. Many would consider Squirtle to be a godly Pokemon (especially when he evolves into Blastoise), I don't even consider it as one of the 12 best Pokemon. So, speeches like God is a Squirtle in The Revenant get lost on me, and it's all because of Tom Hardy's character. That's right. It's not the acting. It's the character, and the way he talks! Bothers me every time.
The Director Received Wide-Spread Acclaim For Making This After Birdman, But I Thought Birdman Was Way Better
Only three directors have ever won back-to-back Best Director trophies, and that’s John Ford, Joseph L. Mankiewicz, and Alejandro González Iñárritu. And, like Ford and Mankiewicz, who both had one movie that won Best Picture during those consecutive wins (Ford's was How Green Was My Valley, and Mankiewicz had All About Eve), the same goes for Alejandro González Iñárritu as Birdman won Best Picture, but The Revenant didn’t (it lost to Spotlight).
But, here's the thing. I LOVE Birdman. In fact, I think it's one of the best Academy Award Best Picture winners of the 2010’s. Following Birdman, I thought The Revenant was going to be another special, mindbender of a movie that took me to new places, but no. The Revenant is not that kind of film.
Honestly, The Revenant is much closer to the director's more dour movies (more on that in a few) prior to Birdman, and it's my fault that I set my expectations needlessly high. It still bothers me that I absolutely adore Birdman, and I can't have that same love for The Revenant. Thems just the breaks, though, I suppose.
People Like It For Being Dark And Dreary, But I Personally Find It Too Dreary
Lastly, The Revenant is just TOO dreary for me. And I LIKE dreary movies. In fact, I like this particular director's dreary movies, like Babel, 21 Grams, and Amores Perros. But, The Revenant just feels TOO cold and too distant for me. By the end of it, I'm emotionally drained to the point that I’m exhausted.
This may be the biggest reason why I don’t like The Revenant, since I always need to take a nap after watching it. I'm just so emotionally drained while watching it that I can't even enjoy it. A lot of people will likely tell me that this makes The Revenant a great movie, and I agree. I actually feel something while watching it. But, even I need at least a little hope in my movies, and this film just feels so hopeless that I can’t even get behind it. I'm sorry, but I just can't, no matter how hard I try to force myself to be a fan.
Do YOU love The Revenant? For more news on other great movies (that I may or may not like), make sure to swing by here often!
Rich is a Jersey boy, through and through. He graduated from Rutgers University (Go, R.U.!), and thinks the Garden State is the best state in the country. That said, he’ll take Chicago Deep Dish pizza over a New York slice any day of the week. Don’t hate. When he’s not watching his two kids, he’s usually working on a novel, watching vintage movies, or reading some obscure book.
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