Liam Neeson’s latest movie, The Grey, arrives in theatres everywhere today. No, this isn’t a film preview, review, or other free advertising for the flick. In fact, our goal is to have you not watch it. And if you care about protecting and respecting the long-mistreated canid, the grey wolf, maybe you’ll take our proscription to heart.
The film’s set-up is simple enough. A group of men are stranded in the Alaskan wilderness following a plane crash. They must use their wits to survive until they are either rescued, or able to find their way back to civilization. However, they soon find themselves in trouble, as a pack of wolves is apparently stalking them. Here’s a preview of the film:
There are a number of reasons we’ve organized a boycott of The Grey (which you can sign here). It’s not just because Liam Neeson and cast members dined on wolf meat as a bizarre sort of method acting. Or that real dead wolves were used as props in the film itself. Though we feel for the four dead wolves who served as either props or the main course of an adventurous eating club, the danger posed to our four-footed friends by this film is more widespread than that.
The Grey has the potential to act as a $35 million propaganda campaign against wolves, at the very same time that they have just been removed from the Endangered Species lists of several western states. Hunting wolves just became legal again, and it was the propagation of horror stories and myths (along with some tempting bounties) that caused the near eradication of the grey wolf in North America in the first place.
Wolf extermination (it went beyond normal hunting) began in earnest in the early 1800s, and by 1926, wolves were completely extirpated from Yellowstone National Park. By the 1970s, less than a thousand wolves remained in the lower 48 of the United States. All along, as the animals became more rare, people had less and less actual experience to contradict the false rumors they were hearing. A “shoot first, ask questions never” policy prevailed.
The reality is that wolves generally avoid both humans and human settlements, and play an important role in parkland ecosystems. Though they’ve been caricatured throughout history as cunning, yellow-eyed monsters out to steal children, we know better now. Thus it’s all the more perplexing that a 2012 movie would portray them so dishonestly if it expects to be taken seriously.
The wolves of The Grey more closely resemble werewolves or demons than any kind of living creature in nature. One character opines that they’re not trying to kill the men out of hunger, but because “we don’t belong here.” Ascribing such human motives to wolves is laughable, at best.
If I can switch gears, and put on my film critic hat for a moment, there’s at least one more reason not to watch this movie. There’s such a thing as artistic license when it comes to some of the smaller details in a narrative. But there needs to be an emotional truth that the story holds to.
I believe that art, ethics and truth are all closely related. It frankly doesn’t matter how carefully a stark atmosphere is created, how cleverly the barren wastes mirror a broken man’s soul, if your core premise rings false. Wolves are beautiful, ultimately cautious creatures. They aren’t supernatural, evil or a metaphor for any human concept. They aren’t the hand-that-strikes of a pantheistic conception of nature. Whatever they are, the creatures depicted in this film are not wolves.
Give this one a pass, and tell your friends to avoid it as well.
Photo credit: Gunnar Ries Amphibol