Alejandro G. Iñárritu’s The Revenant certainly had an eventful last few days, racking up $38 million at the box office in its first weekend of wide release and taking home Golden Globes for Best Director; Best Actor, Drama; and Best Motion Picture, Drama. This puts it in serious Oscar contention and places it among the four or five greatest bear attack movies of all time. Officially, this dour and violent film is based on a 2002 Michael Punke novel, which in turn was inspired by the real-life exploits of fur trapper Hugh Glass. But according to a new video remix from Vulture, the film truly owes its existence to rather less lofty source material: MECC’s theoretically educational, dysentery-death-packed video game, The Oregon Trail, beloved for decades by students and teachers alike as a grade-school time waster with some nominal historical value at its core. Despite decades of success, MECC’s game has yet to receive the feature-length, live-action incarnation it deserves. But perhaps The Revenant has been Iñárritu’s stealth adaptation all along.
Vulture’s mock trailer cleverly makes the connection between The Revenant and Oregon Trail explicit by transplanting the crudely pixelated tombstones, animals, arrows, and covered wagons of the latter into the grim, pitiless, almost monochromatic landscapes of the former. And, no surprise, they fit right in. The elements imported from The Oregon Trail actually lend The Revenant a bit of added visual panache. Here, for instance, the guns fire not bullets but slow-moving white cubes. Not that impressive in a video game setting, perhaps, but almost magical in this context. Ultimately, The Revenant and The Oregon Trail are both ruminations on the brutality, the carnage lurking in America’s back pages. It was only a matter of time before someone brought them together like this.