Now that we can see the box office grosses for The Revenant and The Hateful Eight. two thing have become abundantly clear: people really like The Revenant and are going out to see it in droves, and The Hateful Eight wasn’t very popular and fell off the charts really quickly, earning the least of any Tarantino movie since Jackie Brown.
While The Hateful Eight certainly wasn’t a box office disaster by any means and made an okay $50 million, the reception towards it was much more muted than the typical Tarantino movie, and it was also almost completely snubbed from the major Oscar nominations besides Best Supporting Actress. And compared to The Revenant, with its $120 million (and counting!) and twelve Oscar nominations, it looks even more disappointing.
The common reasoning behind The Hateful Eight’s underperformance is that The Revenant sucked up all the air in the room. It came out one week later and dominated everything that wasn’t already taken up by The Force Awakens. The movies were basically the same, but The Revenant was the one that starred Leonardo DiCaprio, had amazingly-innovative cinematography, and much more critically-acclaimed rather than the “merely good” Tarantino movie. I believe that this is probably true, for the most part.
There have been many “dueling movies” over the years (TVTropes has a page on it, though it has a few tenuous examples on there). White House Down vs Olympus Has Fallen; Armageddon vs Deep Impact; Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation vs The Man from U.N.C.L.E.– every year there is at least one instance where two very similar movies come out around the same time, and usually one of them is soundly defeated at the box office by the other.
The problem with The Hateful Eight and The Revenant dueling, though, is the fact that they are only superficially similar. They aren’t even very similar movies at all, which makes it a shame that The Hateful Eight got all the lifeblood sucked out of it by its fellow movie.
The superficial similarities between the two movies is obvious: they are set in the American Northwest in the 1800s, and they have a shitton of snow.
They’re also both hyper-violent movies. And by hyper-violent I mean both of them are so excessive that they would probably give Jack Thompson a heart attack.
However, that’s pretty much where the similarities end. They’re both violent winter Westerns… but they’re completely different in several respects.
The tone of the two movies is obviously a major difference between the two movies.
The Revenant is a grim and gritty movie, and it’s fucking brutal in almost every way. Leonardo DiCaprio’s character is mauled by a bear early on, and it only gets worse from there.
The entire movie is about survival, about fighting against the impossibly-inhospitable wilderness that acts as a frozen-over Hell for the entire cast. It’s not only visually cold, but emotionally too. And Leonardo DiCaprio, of course, plays the role of a crippled man abandoned in the middle of nowhere, surviving for no reason other than to exact his revenge.
The Hateful Eight is typical Tarantino. It’s a very long movie with lots and lots of talking, a dozen characters each with their own personalities, goals, and motivations, and of course lots of killing. Its title comes from the fact that there are eight main characters of the movie, but there are actually more like ten characters we get to know fairly well (this explains the extremely long runtime of the movie).
While all Tarantino movies deal with pretty serious themes, including this one, they aren’t exactly played straight. They’re all sort of tongue-in-cheek in a sort of B-movie way, where the characters are somewhat over-the-top and you can root for the villains without necessarily sympathizing with them.
The Revenant is completely serious and has almost zero laughs the entire movie, while The Hateful Eight is over-the-top and has great comedic relief in Jennifer Jason Leigh and Samuel L Jackson.
The Hateful Eight is a lot like an inverted homage to Tarantino’s first movie, Reservoir Dogs. The movie also has about ten characters; it starts out introducing all of them at a diner before a diamond heist, then flashes forward to the end of the heist where the characters are meeting up in a warehouse, trying to figure out what went wrong, and also Michael Madsen and Tim Roth. The movie primarily takes place the warehouse besides the occasional flashbacks.
The Hateful Eight starts off as a slow journey, introducing about half the cast early on, then the next 3/4 of the movie takes place almost entirely in an inn, just like its predecessor. The cast is trapped because of a blizzard and the movie becomes very cramped. The inn quickly becomes a character of its own as nearly a dozen characters interact with it all at the same time.
Almost like a Ying-Yang opposite to The Hateful Eight, The Revenant has a massive scope. Leonardo DiCaprio’s character travels two hundred miles across a stark and harsh landscape. The movie has very few characters that actually have any sort of personality, and the focus is almost entirely on Leo.
The Revenant is a massive movie that would be considered a classic adventure movie if its tone weren’t so completely bleak. There’s chase scenes, improvised survival techniques, huge forests, and dozens of minor characters that are essentially there as cannon fodder to show the sheer carnage of everything going on.
As you can see, one movie takes place mostly in one small room, while the other takes place across a vast, epic setting.
And here’s where the two movies diverge the most.
The Hateful Eight, unlike many Tarantino movies, isn’t a revenge movie– at first. Without going into any specific spoilers, the movie is very much about revenge. However, it’s played more like Inglourious Basterds and less like Kill Bill; the revenge is bombastic and a bit of wish-fulfillment, and not meant to be taken as any sort of serious message about the nature of revenge. Moreover, the revenge is not exactly the main part of the movie, but more of a side element.
The Revenant, though, is extremely serious in its message about the nature of revenge. The entire plot of the movie, starting once the revenge plot commences, is essentially a giant allegory about the hollowness of revenge. “Revenge is a dish best served cold” would have absolutely been the tagline to this movie if it came out in 1999 instead of 2016.
It’s really easy to say that since both of them deal with revenge that they are similar movies. Instead, the fact that they both do only serves to further highlight how different they really are.
While I absolutely love The Hateful Eight and think The Revenant is extremely great (even better than Birdman, in my opinion), I really don’t think the movies should be compared just because of a similar setting. It’s like comparing different types of barbeque sauces; yes, yellow barbeque and red barbeque both make for good barbeque (though yellow barbeque is objectively better), they’re fundamentally different types of sauces.
That being said, if you haven’t already, I recommend you see both of these movies as soon as possible, and in theaters. They are both visually gorgeous and deserve to be watched at the multiplex on the biggest screen available.