Liam Neeson battles fictional wolves in The Grey.

By Sonia Horon, Global Animal

The Grey is about an oil drilling team stranded in the middle of Alaskan wilderness after their plane crashes. But it’s not the dangerous weather that poses the biggest threat to these men, it’s a pack of wolves that are portrayed as blood-thirsty, vicious creatures. It’s hard not to get irked while watching The Grey since wolves just got delisted as an Endangered Species. It’s even harder to then read interviews with Joe Carnahan, the director, defending his portrayal of wolves as realistic, instead of simply admitting that it’s completely fictional. The idea that a pack of wild wolves that have never had contact with humans would go after humans in a territorial blood war is implausible at best, dangerously misleading at worst.

Wolves are not human shredding machines as Joe Carnahan would have you believe. It’s very rare to encounter them and the director himself admitted to not having seen a live one while shooting the movie. But if you do encounter one, their basic instinct will be to go the other way, not viciously attack you. Joe Carnahan, in all his expertise, disagrees. In an interview with Spinoff Online he laughed the experts off and gave his own version of reality: “…this idea that wolves never attack people — I can give you dozens of stories and accounts that are completely contrary to that. Every time an animal behaviorist or someone who is an ‘expert’ says this is what they do, I’ll show you a 400-member super-pack in Siberia that tore through 30 horses in two days, so don’t tell me that nature is completely benign.”

Four hundred member super-packs? The experts Carnahan scoffs at say his statements are not connected to reality. Amaroq Weiss from the California Wolf  Center wrote to me saying “In the last 100 years, there have been two “confirmed” cases of wolves killing people in North America, one in 2005 in Saskatchewan and the other in 2010 in Alaska.”

A grey wolf – you’d be lucky and privileged to see one.

And when it comes to Europe the statistics are similarly low “There currently are an estimated 10,000-20,000 wolves in Europe, 40,000 in Russia and 60,000 in North America.  Despite the high numbers of wolves, records can be found for only four people being killed in Europe and four in Russia by non-rabid wolves during the last 50 years.

Lightning kills 40-50 people a year in the United States, so you have a way better chance of being struck by lightning than killed by a wolf. You would never know this watching The Grey.

As for the director disregarding expert opinion in favor of telling lies to market his film,  Amaroq Weiss, who has worked in numerous wolf-related institutes throughout the years, says: “No one who has worked in wolf conservation or seriously studied behavior of wolves in the wild would ever say that nature is benign. Nature is magnificent and wild and beautiful and unforgiving. However, wolf biologists also would never depict wolves the way Mr. Carnahan has portrayed them in this film because it wouldn’t be accurate. Wolves are charismatic animals that have long provoked the human imagination. Unfortunately, our imaginations have often slipped into the dark abyss of fear and hysteria, igniting campaigns to kill wolves. While The Grey may accurately be termed a thriller film, as Mr. Carnahan suggests, from the perspective of those of us who have spent years trying to get accurate information about wolves in front of the American public, there is nothing thrilling about a story that appeals to our darker nature, which most certainly has not been benign to species like wolves.”

Although method acting is usually a great technique, it seems some of the cast members of The Grey have taken it too far. Liam Neeson and fellow Grey stars ate wolf meat while shooting in Alaska. According to their director it was to help the actors really get a feel for the role. There have been numerous unfavorable speculations about how he got the wolf meat for his cast. So not only is Joe creating wolf phobia, but he’s also possibly contributing to wiping out this animal which is already endangered in so many states. Apparently for Joe Carnahan, director of gems like “The A-Team” and “Blood, Guts, Bullets and Octane”, the subject of eating wolves is funny. During a lunch with reporters he reportedly picked up a plate and joked “I’m eating raw wolf!” Hilarious Joe. Eat an endangered species and have a good laugh.

This implausible movie will do terrible damage to wolves’ image. To those of you who would say “It’s only a movie,” think about how sharks fared after Jaws came out. Last year 36 million sharks were killed for soup, their fins cut off while the rest of them sank to the bottom of the sea and drowned. Did a movie do this? No. But a movie helped make it okay. Sharks and wolves, they’re vicious predators, they’ll kill you. So it becomes okay to kill them. Like it or not, movies affect public opinion and actions. They change us, sometimes for the better.

Just this year, the Interior Department has caved to pressure from ranchers and hunters to allow regular wolf hunts, in addition to outright killings of ‘problem wolves’ that attack cattle. Grey wolves have been brought from the edge of extinction to a total and still tenuous population of just 5,500 in eight states in the Northern Rockies.

This is the truth about endangered grey wolves: they are delisted and have a fragile hold on survival. They need our help and our understanding. Not our ignorance and exploitation.

Don’t buy this dark fairy tale about a magnificent animal.

READ MORE ABOUT GREY WOLVES

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13 COMMENTS

  1. The overall point made in this article is correct. If you end up stranded in the middle of a vast Northern wilderness hundreds of miles from civilization, there's about a 1% chance that an encounter with a wolf pack would result in an attack. Wolves in extremely remote areas are very shy towards humans. The more recent cases of attacks in Alaska are always situations where the wolves' territory borders in and around civiliation. This can be dangerous because just like bears and other wild animals, wolves can lose their fear of humans. In most cases where wolves have showed aggressive behavior towards humans, it's always because of the nice meal they're stalking on the other end of the leash you're holding. Wolves don't differentiate Golden Retreivers from whatever other wild game they hunt. Where I disagree with this article is that as much as I love wolves (I've had the chance to interact with wolves raised in captivity) I also empathize with cattle ranchers. There has to be a sensible approach to this problem which both protects wolves' numbers from dwindling to but also protects Rachers' profit margins.

  2. The Grey is a nearly scene for scene copy of a much better earlier film, The Edge, starring Anthony Hopkins. Lets compare shall we. Both movies involve a group of people who are involved in a plane crash in the Alaskan wilderness. Both films the party must brave the elements, but face the much more serious problem of a wild carnivore stalking them, in The Edge it’s a bear, The Grey it’s wolves. The Grey the leader of the group is Irish, in the edge he’s English. Both films have a good natured black guy in their group who dies early on. Both have to escape the wild animals by crossing a dangerous gorge. Both use fire and sharpened sticks in an attempt to take on their animal stalker. Both films have a bad guy in the group who tries to kill the leader, but later redeems himself.

    It’s absolutely ridiculous. The plot is nearly identical, the only real difference being The Grey lacks all of the nuance and depth The Edge had. On the animal rights front, at least The Edge was respectful enough to dedicate the film to Bart the Bear, who died shortly after filming.

  3. Good article. I was thinking the same thing while watching this movie, it really made it difficult to sit through. The wolf “facts” Neeson’s character spouted were so stupid I found it difficult to keep my eyes on the screen. Their portrayal of wolves was so over the top and negative the movie reminded me of The Eternal Jew. At first I was almost willing to play off their use of wolves as some sort of metaphor, but Joe Carnahan is simply not talented enough for that kind of writing, and after hearing his comments, and the fact they ate wolf meat to prepare, it is obvious this film can be taken at face value. There’s no powerful hidden message in it, it’s just a bunch of anti-wolf nonsense. Even without the wolf issue, the movie was still dumb. Nobody would come looking for the airplane? They would come right to it, every modern airplane is equipped with a nearly indestructible GPS tracking beacon, for exactly this kind of situation. And if they wanted to stay safe from the evil man-eating wolves, then why hike over to the woods? Why not just barricade themselves in the airplane? it would be much warmer anyway, idiots. The movie was dumb right from the start. The writing was stupid, the characters were stupid, the plot was stupid, Joe Carnahan is stupid, and I am disappointed in Liam Neeson for attaching his name and credibility to a piece of crap like this.

  4. How truly irresponsible of all of those involved in the making of this movie! Actors eating wolf meat in order to get into the part is an excuse for demented behavior and shameful, as is spreading lies and misinformation about these magnificent animals. People, not wolves, are the true blood thirsy creatures.