What a controversy.
The main drama about this movie revolves around the premise. “Elites” aka the “rich” take their frustrations with the world by hunting “poor” people at the Manor. While not explicitly stated, the film strongly suggests that the “poor” people are republicans and the “rich” are democrats. The original title was “Red State vs Blue State”. How subtle.
Having watched the trailer, the film looked okay, nothing amazing but definitely unique. What most of the opinion pieces out on the movie seem to miss is the source material. The film is an updated version of Richard Connell’s 1924 short story, “The Most Dangerous Game” also published as “The Hounds of Zaroff”.
Originally released on January 19, 1924, the short story follows a big-game hunter, Sanger Rainsford, from New York City who falls off a yacht and swims to a seemingly uninhabited Caribbean island. Turns out the island houses a rather eccentric Russian aristocrat named General Zaroff who hunts humans for sport.
Zaroff finds big game hunting unstimulating due to a lack of strategy. He moved to this island in order to capture shipwrecked sailors and hunt them. Every unfortunate soul receives the same deal: any captive who eludes Zaroff, Ivan, and a pack of hunting dogs for three days earns their freedom. So far, no one has survived. Rainsford reluctantly agrees to the terms. Considering this story is 95 years old, I have no compunction ruining the ending: Rainsford wins.
Richard Connell wrote this short story due to the popularity of big-game hunting safaris in Africa and South America. Many wealthy Americans in the 1920s traveled abroad to hunt exotic prey. The story inspired multiple radio, television, and film adaptations. Based upon the trailer, The Hunt seems to follow the basic premise, only there are multiple Rainsfords and Zaroffs with a strong political overtone tacked on.
Universal Pictures, the production company, announced earlier this week that they have decided to not release the film due to the mass shootings that occurred in El Paso and Dayton. According to the Hollywood Reporter today, the film did not perform well among test audiences. This sounds like Universal attempting to save face. If a film does poorly in test screenings, the production team usually reworks the film well before rolling out a trailer. Considering the movie stayed on the docket up until last week without any indication of a need for reshoots, Universal probably planned on releasing The Hunt as scheduled. So, who knows.
One point of interest is why Universal chose to make the movie in the first place, it cost over $18 million. Given the divisive political climate, toning down or removing overtly partisan references would seem smart. Or the studio could have written and released an actual adaptation of the source material without the vitriol. Personally, the film does not look like something I would watch in theaters, I would probably wait for the Netflix, Amazon, Hulu, or DVD release. Yes, I prefer DVDs to streaming. I wear my luddite title proudly.
Controversy aside, I think this incident showcases two problems with modern film-making First, An over reliance on current political trends. In the past, message laden movies did not take on the current political rhetoric and instead focused on broader trends. Overtly political films do not age well and fall out of favor quickly.
Second, just adapt the original source material. The short story is well written, respected, and a great read. Why add in unnecessary political jargon? Especially since most of the political movies released in the past couple of years have gone nowhere. Want a successful non-Marvel film? Release a compelling non-politics driven movie. This should not pose such a problem, Hollywood used to do it all the time.
Synopsis: Twelve strangers wake up in a clearing. They don’t know where they are, or how they got there. They don’t know they’ve been chosen – for a very specific purpose – The Hunt (From IMDb)
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