The release of The Grey, an action-packed thriller set in the Alaskan wilderness that pits man against wolf, could not have arrived in theaters at a worse time for OR-7 (a.k.a. Journey) the male gray wolf that left his pack in northwest Oregon late last year and moved into California, solo, looking for a mate. In doing so, he became the first wild wolf to enter the state since the species was exterminated there, more than 80 years ago. And he’s been greeted with scorn from Northern California ranchers, some of who have expressed interest in finding, killing, and burying the animal. (Wildlife officials are tracking the collared animal via GPS, but delaying the release of the data to keep would-be hunters on a cold trail.)
The film’s release is also bad timing for wolf advocates who are trying hard to get wolves back under the legislative protection of the Endangered Species List. In Oregon, WildEarth Guardians has launched a boycott of the film based on its negative portrayal of the animals. The gist of the film: massive, bloodthirsty wolves terrorize survivors of a plane crash. Liam Neeson’s character fights back with makeshift weapons that seem better suited to a gang fight. The takeaway: wolves hate us and want to kill us. Another takeaway, via Outside’s Brad Wieners: It’s a dumb movie.
But how much can this movie do to inflate the image of the big bad wolf? Will it actually sway the many ongoing debates between wolf advocates and ranchers, who want more freedom to protect their livestock and want to pull wolf management duties away from the federal government?