They are two of the biggest and most talked about movies currently in theaters. They are both wildly ambitious, sprawling period epics. They are both made by directors with distinct flamboyant styles which are either loved or hated. I’m talking about Alejandro González Iñárritu’s “The Revenant” and Quentin Tarantino’s “The Hateful Eight”.
I have been fascinated by the responses to these two films. Both have evoked predominantly positive reactions, but the praises come in different forms and from different places. Tarantino diehards are arguably the biggest and most vocal fans and, despite a few critical misgivings and being shunned by the Oscars, most of them really went for “The Hateful Eight”. Iñárritu certainly doesn’t have the enthusiastic personal fanbase, but despite similar critical misgivings, “The Revenant” has struck a chord with audiences and the Academy where it is sitting on 12 Oscar nominations.
While I usually don’t see the point in comparing movies one-on-one, I found the subtle and obvious similarities between these two giant films combined with the many passionate positive and negative opinions too intriguing to pass up. It gave me a good reason to go back and re-examine both films and my initial takes on them. So for what it’s worth here are my thoughts on each and how they compare.
“The Hateful Eight” (FULL REVIEW)
I don’t know if there is another filmmaker more smitten with his style than Quentin Tarantino. Never before has this been more evident than in this film. I absolutely love the idea behind “The Hateful Eight”. It offered Tarantino the opportunity to truly expand himself as a filmmaker. It allowed him the chance to uniquely use his great talents for creating sublime visual presentations and fabulously entertaining characters. All he would need to do is dial back his impulsive style and get himself out of the way.
That proved to be something he just couldn’t do. In spite of all “The Hateful Eight” does right, it simply can’t overcome Tarantino’s compulsion to put his personal stamp on every inch of the film. It’s seen in the wildly overwritten script. It’s seen in the bursts of absurdly over-the-top graphic violence, some of which is distractingly stupid. It’s seen in the incessant and flippant use of the n-word without any meaningful commentary or the use of his one meaningful female character as nothing more than his physical and verbal punching bag.
I still firmly believe that a wonderful film lies somewhere inside of what we get with “The Hateful Eight”. A smarter and more focused approach could have resulted in something much more satisfying. But Tarantino relentlessly beats his own drum without an ounce of modulation. To be fair many people, particularly fans of his brash style, truly love the film and have eloquently defended it. But despite what I liked about “The Hateful Eight”, my experience is muddied by the frustration of knowing what could have been.
“The Revenant” (FULL REVIEW)
Like Tarantino, Alejandro G. Iñárritu is completely devoted to his particular style of filmmaking. In the past that has meant some pretty pretentious movies that often wallow in suffering, sadness, and misery. “The Revenant” certainly has some of those elements, but strangely enough Iñárritu is able to use these very same indulgences to create a truly mesmerizing cinematic experience.
“The Revenant” maintains a fairly simple narrative within its grand scale. But often times the simplest can be the most compelling. And unlike “The Hateful Eight”, Iñárritu’s focus is always clear and he never smothers his story with his own brand. It’s certainly not an easy watch. The pain and suffering is still there, but every ounce of it feels authentic. Iñárritu holds a tight-fisted control of his film which in the past has been cause for concern. Here it works masterfully.
But there is also the huge importance of the visual presentation. Iñárritu and the great cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki give us some of the most spectacular images of the year. Some spotlight nature’s untamed beauty. Others contrast that with the ugliness of humanity. Some simply capture action scenes with intense artistry. Both filmmakers are visual masters, but its Iñárritu who uses his cameras better to serve his story and themes.
For me “The Revenant” tops “The Hateful Eight” in nearly every meaningful category. Between the two, it’s the one that has stuck with me the most and that impressed me enough to see it a second time. Again I want to stress that in “The Hateful Eight” Tarantino fans will undoubtedly see many of the creative strokes that make them Tarantino fans. Me, I saw many of the things that frustrates me about his filmmaking amplified x10.
For what it’s worth those are my thoughts. But what say you? What are your thoughts on these two movies and the two unique, stylized filmmakers behind them? I’ve shared my perspective. Now I would love to hear yours.
Fine comparison, Keith. I’d agree that THE REVENANT is the better, more meaningful film, with two of the best movie performances (DiCaprio and Hardy) of 2015. That said, I’m more likely to re-watch THE HATEFUL EIGHT. For all Tarantino’s idiosyncrasies and foibles on film (this time in impressive 70mm, in that incredible aspect ratio of 2.76:1) he managed to get under my skin to the point I want to go back and scratch that itch. See what bugs, attracts, or ticked me off with that crazy way of his again versus Iñárritu’s dour but majestic intensity that I was glad to experience…and once easily filled the bill. I don’t have a hankerin’ to go back and do that again any time soon. Plus, EIGHT had Kurt “The Man” Russell in it, with the best mustache of the year…possibly the decade. 😉
Okay, it’s hard to argue with Russell’s mustache! It was…iconic.
I don’t know. For me the thought of slogging through Tarantino’s self love-fest is depressing. I completely see where you’re coming from, but personally speaking The Revenant resonated with me more even though the facial hair wasn’t as profound. 😉
Has to be The Revenant for me!
Me too Cindy. I was pretty blown away by it.
Both were films that I was anticipating immensely and both were films that disappointed me despite their greatness. Like most Tarantino fans, I love the dialogue and conversation but you are right about the use of pejoratives and there are simply too many grotesque moments to stomach back to back. There is a good 1 hour and forty minute film here, but there are so many shots where the timing felt off and it takes forever to get to the mayhem. The Revenant is so spectacular to look at, that it sometimes misses opportunities to build character, and it is grim. Maybe that was the point, to feel like you were freezing to death also, but I needed the story to move along a bit more quickly. I know I will be seeing the Revenant again at the Best Picture Showcase, but I also know there will be plenty of spots where I can step out to the bathroom. Revenant is the better picture, but I enjoyed Walton Goggins and Kurt Russell enough that I’d watch “8” again willingly. [Just not with the frequency that I have consumed other Tarantino films with]. An interesting question, there might be more to say but I think Kingsman is on somewhere and that I could watch on a continuous loop.
Some really good thoughts. I agree with you about Goggins and Russell. Both were highlights of “8”. I still can’t see myself seeing it again any time soon. I’ve seen The Revenant twice now and if I lived a little closer to my theater I probably would have seen it again by now. It really resonated with me. At the same time I can see where the criticisms come from.
Having now seen both films, I still prefer The Hateful Eight since it has this air of intrigue but also manages to do so much with its visuals though I do think The Revenant has better performances.
Interesting. I never latched onto any intrigue. Maybe I was too busy trying to get Tarantino to move himself out of the way. 😉
If Leonardo fails to receive his Oscar trophy this year, i will be hugely disappointed. For his acting’s sake my favourite remains The revenant this yeat.
Agreed. There have been some magnificent performances this year, but none seemed as challenging and intense as his. Now that doesn’t always equal the best performance, but in this case it certainly does because Leo absolutely nails it.
The Revenant is certainly more meaningful, but if I were to re-watch one of these two, I’d pick The Hateful Eight every time.
Interesting. But let me ask you this out of curiosity. Would you pick Eight mainly due to The Revenants difficult and at times gruesome scenes? They certainly aren’t fun to watch.
Honestly, I found myself covering my eyes more in The Hateful Eight. I got a little bored with The Revenant. I recently reviewed it explaining my qualms.
Sure, I get what you’re saying. For me Tarantino’s graphic violence and gross-out gore bordered on absurdity. It was so ridiculous that I never could even flinch. The main reason I asked was because many people have said that they are in no hurry to watch The Revenant again due to its disturbing graphic violence. Maybe it is because it’s rooted a little more in reality.
Intriguing thoughts, Keith. The Revenant is the better film, technically superior with better performances, and a little more well-rounded.
But with that said, I have little to no interest in viewing again at this point in time. I still don’t know how I completely feel about The Hateful Eight (gave it a B- on my first view), but it has hooked me enough that I am looking forward to another watch, even two, just to see if I missed anything. I actually believe that the writing in H8, story wise, is a big strength, maybe not so much the characters, though. The Revenant works too with its script, but it’s kind of conventional in my opinion.
I gave The Revenant a high grade, but more on technical directorial brilliance and magnificent thespian work. I do believe I had such a high expectation in my head, and I was slightly disappointed with some of the other, albeit few, aspects.
In a way I felt The Revenant was a mood piece. A meditation on the ugliness of humanity contrasted with the beauty of nature. I really picked up on some intriguing themes the second time through.
Most people do seem to really go for H8. For me it was a meaningless film. Now there is nothing inherently wrong with that. A movie can be really good and just be sheer entertainment. But QT seems to be playing with themes but never doing much with them. And several of his indulgences were just too much for me.
But again, this gets to what fascinates me about this discussion. Two similar movies but also two very different ones as well as different reactions to them.
Really interesting read mate. I didn’t like The Revenant as much as most seemed to, but I definitely agree with your thoughts on The Hateful Eight. In fact my draft review has some similar points that you bring up.
Unfortunately I was disappointed by both films, but if I were to choose, I’d choose The Revenant, even though I had my issues with it.
Really interested to read your thoughts on the two films particularly The Hateful Eight. I feel like I’m on a deserted island alone with my opinion. 😉
I’d love to hear your thoughts on what I wrote mate!
Revenant – http://wp.me/p4P9IW-Ty
Hateful Eight – http://wp.me/p4P9IW-UA
Fascinating discussion of both films. I’m now even more eager to catch up with them.
Yep, give them a look. After writing this I found several more comprehensive articles comparing these two. The funny thing is even those writers had very strong leanings towards one or the other.
Not even close, it’s The Revenant all the way.
Thank you, thank you, thank you! I too think the chasm between the two movies is substantial.
Now that I’ve seen both, I can vote.
Individual performance: THE HATEFUL 8 (Walton Goggins).
Ensemble performance: THE HATEFUL 8.
Directing: THE REVENANT.
Script: THE HATEFUL 8.
Music score: THE HATEFUL 8.
Visual and/or special effects: THE REVENANT.
Plot twists: THE HATEFUL 8.
Ending: Neither (both were weak).
Characters: THE HATEFUL 8.
Positive use of gore: THE HATEFUL 8 (for comedic purposes).
Ability to not feel repetitive despite the plot structure: THE HATEFUL 8.
Verdict: THE HATEFUL 8.
Interesting. I think the only thing I would give you on H8 is the Ensemble Performance and Score. Maybe plot twists although that’s not an important measuring stick for me.