Jeremiah Johnson Was a Revenant

DATELINE:  Mountain Men Wantedrevenant


Forty years ago Robert Redford played the legendary Revenant. Of course, he was an “Indian killer.” Today, the violence is committed mindlessly by the soldiers—and the Native Americans are victims. So, the new Revenant movie takes a different tact.

The rest of the story is copied shamelessly. Death of wife and young son sets off a mountain man. This time it is Leonardo di Caprio braving the cold, a bear attack, and other assorted injuries. Despite all he suffers, frostbite or hypothermia is not among the problems.

Like Redford’s character, this one is based on trapper legends. Instead of meeting Will Geer in his fur get-up, DiCaprio dresses like Will Geer, down to the jaunty fur cap. Many incidents between both films are shuffled like a deck of script pages (fishing by hand in the rapids, etc.)

You could probably match scenes for scenes between the films.

This time the bloody rage is more vivid, with splurting blood.  Yet, the majestic and sublime Nature remains the powerful backdrop to the survival of the fittest in both Jeremiah Johnson and The Revenant.

The picaresque adventure of revenge remains the centerpiece of both movies. In DiCaprio’s version, he must seek out the double-crossing varmit (Tom Hardy) who kills the Pawnee son of Revenant (Forrest Goodluck).

The callow Goodluck as Hawk is a scene-stealer, but we doubt he will transcend that stereotype of playing the “good Indian” as his career unfolds. Typecasting lives.

In keeping with modern stereotypes, the worst group in the new version is the French Canadian trappers. White men, all.

Well directed and produced, the film still falls short in its message. Jeremiah Johnson carried a satisfying wallop. The Revenant merely carries on.