The Liam Neeson adventure thriller "The Grey" may be entertaining but a northern Minnesota wolf expert gives it thumbs down for its portrayal of wolves.
Nancy Jo Tubbs, chairwoman of the International Wolf Center's board, awarded the movie about over-sized wolves preying on plane crash survivors, which grossed about $43 million in its first two weekends in U.S. theaters, is in the running for the Ely facility's first Scat Award.
"'The Grey' is a monster movie -- dark, depressing, and as accurate a portrayal of wolf behavior as 'King Kong' was about gorillas," she said in a blog posted on the Web site for the center, located in the heart of U.S. wolf country.
"Pro-wolf folks seem to dislike this movie the same way herpetologists probably reacted to 'Snakes on a Plane' and marine biologists hated 'Jaws.'"
Tubbs notes the International Wolf Center "likes to take an educational approach, even to movies."
"The overriding problem with 'The Grey' is that the wolves are portrayed as 'man-killers,' when the incidence of wolves killing humans in North America is so rare as to garner huge headlines," she wrote. "Two cases have been documented -- a 2005 killing by wolves in Saskatchewan [Canada] and a 2010 death near Chignik Lake, Alaska.
She also notes inaccuracies about wolves' hunting practices, den habits and pack hierarchy, among other issues.
"Most laughable," she said, is the assertion made in the movie that the alpha of the pack would send a member lower in the pecking order to attack the men gathered around a fire.
"While anthropomorphizing -- attributing human characteristics to non-human things or animals -- can be fun, it's rarely true," she said. "Low-ranking wolf or not, it wouldn't have attacked on any other wolf's 'instructions.'
"Under the just plain 'silly' category is the ludicrous depiction of seven weakened crash survivors outrunning a pack of wolves in knee-deep snow. Wolves' feet are especially adapted to run over difficult terrain, such as snow. Given the fact that they can reach speeds of up to 38 mph, our intrepid survivors had a better chance of being rescued by Santa Claus.
"Movie-goers who like to be scared out of their socks in the theater probably won't pick up on the wacky wolf information being conveyed, but here at the center we hope that later they'll learn enough about real wolf behavior so they're not scared to take a walk in the winter woods," Tubbs said.