Wilderness Dumbass Movies

Let me open by saying I have done minimal research on the three real-life people whose stories are told in three of the movies I’m about to tear down, because I didn’t enjoy any of the films enough to want to learn more about the real life figures and frankly, I’ve got better things to do with my time than study up on people I don’t care about. So if you’re about to come at me all, “But in real life…”, forget it. I don’t care about “in real life,” I’m only talking about these movies. And in these movies, those three guys are Wilderness Dumbasses.

Two of the guys I’m about to talk smack about died on account of their Wilderness Dumbassery. While I am sorry for the loss to their family and friends, and do not celebrate the deaths of any well-meaning and essentially decent people, the lesson to be learned here is that dumbassery can kill. Um, spoiler alert, or whatever…since the stories of the two real-life guys who died were already covered in the news media, I don’t think it’s such a big reveal here.
figGrizzly Man

On IMDB, a couple of plot summaries describe the movie like this:

A docudrama that centers on amateur grizzly bear expert Timothy Treadwell. He periodically journeyed to Alaska to study and live with the bears. He was killed, along with his girlfriend, Amie Huguenard, by a rogue bear in October 2003. The films explores their compassionate lives as they found solace among these endangered animals. – Written by Sujit R. Varma

For thirteen consecutive summers, the American Timothy Treadwell moved to Katmai in the Alaskan Peninsula to live among the grizzly bears, with the pretext of studying and protecting them. In 2003, his girlfriend Amie Huguenard and he were surprisingly attacked and eaten by a bear. Werner Herzog somehow accessed more than one hundred hours of footages filmed by Timothy and released this documentary, showing the life and death of Timothy Treadwell. – Written by Claudio Carvalho

I describe the movie like this:

Timothy Treadwell was a well-meaning amateur conservationist who fooled himself into thinking that since a group of bears tolerated his presence for over 13 years, they no longer viewed himself and his girlfriend as potential food. Treadwell came to believe the bears had accepted him as one of their own, and that was a Wilderness Dumbass move. One minute he’s marveling at the sheer size and terrible ferocity of these beasts, the next he’s comparing them to his collection of stuffed teddy bears.

There was nothing “rogue” about the bear who attacked him, and there was nothing “surprising” about it. This was a wild bear doing what wild bears do: eating the most readily available and easily obtained prey.

Wild bears are NOTHING like your collection of stuffed teddy bears, they will NEVER see a human as one of their own, and if they’re hungry enough and you’re close enough they WILL eat you and anyone else you’ve been foolish enough to bring along. Do you see that bear in the picture?!
figInto The Wild

On IMDB, a plot synopsis written and updated by numerous viewers says:

A young man leaves his middle class existence in pursuit of freedom from relationships and obligation. Giving up his home, family, all possessions but the few he carried on his back and donating all his savings to charity Christopher McCandless (Emile Hirsch) embarks on a journey throughout America. His eventual aim is to travel into Alaska, into the wild, to spend time with nature, with ‘real’ existence, away from the trappings of the modern world.

In the 20 months leading up to his Great Alaskan Adventure his travels lead him on a path of self-discovery, to examine and appreciate the world around him and to reflect on and heal from his troubled childhood and parents’ sordid and abusive relationship. When he reaches Alaska he finds he has been insufficiently prepared for the hardships to come…With no means of sustaining himself adequately [he] starve[s] in his so sought after isolation. Throughout his epic journey the people he meets both influence and are influenced by the person he is and bring him to the eventual and tragic realization that “Happiness is only real when shared”.

I say:

My only experiences with camping were one miserable, freezing night spent on a beach in high school, plus the few excursions my ex husband forced on me. I enjoy nature and can even get into a bit of hiking, but I want a comfy bed, a hot shower and a real dinner waiting for me at the end of the day—a dug-out latrine, glorified MRE and camp shower aren’t gonna cut it.

Yet even I, camping and wilderness dilettante that I am, know it’s a Wilderness Dumbass move to go ALONE into any wilderness area without having a plan, and without having left an itinerary and map with family, friends or local park authorities. Even I know it’s a Wilderness Dumbass move to just go hiking around for weeks or months on end in a wilderness area you have never experienced during whatever season you intend to do your wandering. I know that in the wilderness, conditions can change very abruptly. This is why even the most seasoned survival experts rarely go on their trips alone, and when they do, they leave an itinerary and map so someone knows to go look for them (and where to look) if they fail to come home.

I’m sure this young rebel’s attitude of sticking it to the man, leaving behind his comfy trappings of privilege, and going his own way to really experience nature and life without a net seems very magical and inspiring and whatever, right up to the point where he literally starved to death.

Yeah, I know that in real life this guy had some emotional problems and mental illness, but none of that is covered in the film — again, I’m only talking about what’s in the movie here. And yeah, I know the point of the movie is supposed to be about his great spiritual awakening along the journey, but it’s kind of hard for me to divorce all of that from the fact that his final reward was starving to death, alone, in the Alaskan wilderness.
fig127 Hours

The studio that released this movie describes it this way:

127 Hours is the true story of mountain climber Aron Ralston’s remarkable adventure to save himself after a fallen boulder crashes on his arm and traps him in an isolated canyon in Utah. Over the next five days Ralston examines his life and survives the elements to finally discover he has the courage and the wherewithal to extricate himself by any means necessary, scale a 65 foot wall and hike over eight miles before he can be rescued. Throughout his journey, Ralston recalls friends, lovers, family, and the two hikers he met before his accident. Will they be the last two people he ever had the chance to meet? – Written by Fox Searchlight Pictures

I describe it a bit differently:

Overconfident mountain climber/Wilderness Dumbass Aron Ralston must cut off his own arm with a dull pocket knife when, while on a solo rock climbing excursion for which he’s failed to leave a map or itinerary with anyone, he slips and falls into a crevice with one hand pinned under a fallen boulder.

Sure, it was super-courageous and super-hyper-ultra-macho of Ralston to cut off his own arm in order to survive. Sure, no child of his will ever be able to complain about anything in life, ever (“Oh, so you dumped your bike and broke your leg and it hurts? Did I ever tell you about the time I CUT OFF MY OWN ARM WITH A DULL POCKET KNIFE?!”). But for me the bottom line is this: given the choice between Wilderness Dumbassery that leads to life-saving, arm-severing, anesthetic-free, amateur surgery al fresco and using the common sense that will get you home with all your limbs intact, I’m gonna say common sense is the better way to go here.

IMDB says:

A friendship between two twenty-something men is tested to its very limits when they go on a hike in a desert and forget to bring any water or food with them.

I say:

Two dudes on a road trip through some of the most monotonous, non-scenic desert badlands you can imagine get into a really long and boring fight about nothing that’s terribly important. At one point they pull over, and the angrier of the two dudes just starts wandering off, because he wants to put some physical space between himself and the other guy. The other guy follows him and they continue their pointless blathering and wandering. The pair are too focused on their bitching and moaning to notice they’re walking further and further away from their car and the road, and that neither of them brought any water or food.

Once they finally DO notice, the road and the car are nowhere in sight, and there’s nothing but featureless desert all around them, as far as the eye can see. There’s some reconciliation as they suffer from heat exhaustion and dehydration together, because apparently there’s nothing like being literally baked to death to help you see the big picture. They bond, they die: they’re Wilderness Dumbasses.


Being a Wilderness Dumbass may make you famous and result in someone else winning awards and making a lot of money off your story, but you will either be dead or short one limb. Don’t let Wilderness Dumbassery happen to you.