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'The Grey' slammed for 'bloodthirsty' portrayal of wolves

January 28, 2012 |  7:02 am

The_Gray_Liam_Neeson
"The Grey," the survival thriller starring Liam Neeson as a man who must battle bloodthirsty wolves to survive, is poised to reign at the box office this weekend.

But not if animal rights activists have anything to say about it.

The film stars Neeson as an oil refinery sharpshooter who finds himself fighting the elements and bloodthirsty wolves after a plane crash. As might be expected, harsh outcomes abound for man and beast.

But animal rights activists say the film is folly, and will only add to the persistent misrepresentation in TV, film and literature of the wolf as an aggressive, man-hunting creature. In fact, experts say, wolves fear humans and avoid interaction at all costs.

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals is among those urging a boycott of the film: "The writers paint a pack of wolves living in the Alaskan wilderness as bloodthirsty monsters, intent on killing every survivor of a plane crash by tearing each person limb from limb."

The Wolf Conservation Center is taking a different approach, using the film as a platform to raise awareness about the perils facing wolves in the wild and how their real-life nature diverges from the Hollywood portrayal. 

"In reality, wild wolves are shy and elusive," the center's website says. "A person in wolf country has a greater chance of being hit by lightning ... than being injured by a wolf."

WolfWatcher.org, meanwhile, is taking Neeson and writer-director Joe Carnahan to task for engaging in on-set bonding by actually eating wolf meat.

Carnahan has downplayed criticism by saying that there are in fact reports of wolves turning on man, but says that ultimately the film is about a man's inner journey to find his survival instincts.

Carnahan himself told our sister blog, Greenspace, that he wants the wolves to be seen in the right light: “I never intended [the wolves] to be the aggressor; I look at them as the defenders. I think these guys are in a very territorially sensitive place. [The humans] were trespassing and intruders.”

Wolfwatcher.org is nonetheless urging wildlife activists to print out fliers describing the true nature of wolves -- such as their desire to avoid humans at all costs -- and hand them out at local movie theaters showing "The Grey."

"This film comes out at the worst of times, when wolves are literally fighting for their lives," the organization says on its site.

The movie, which opened Friday in 2,700 theaters nationwide, is expected to make about $14 million, according to Box Office Guru. Animal rights activists will surely howl, but our review calls this thriller "a solid January surprise."

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Costa Concordia wreck: Hopes fading for Minnesota couple onboard

-- Rene Lynch
Twitter / renelynch

Photo: Two gray wolves in the wild. Credit: Associated Press / Southern Rockies Wolf Restoration Project

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