‘Captain Fantastic’ leaves a huge impression

Category:  The Arts
Wednesday, February 22nd, 2017 at 6:00 PM
‘Captain Fantastic’ leaves a huge impression by Gabriel Hypes

Dressed in black paint, crouched in the woods (not making a sound) and ready to attack your prey is how “Captain Fantastic” starts out, capped off with the slaughter of a deer by a young man using just a knife. Out from the woods emerges a group of children also all covered in black, which creates the impression of cannibals. The group is huddled around the young man, who is then joined by a father who proclaims he has now become a man, smearing blood over his face and making him eat the heart of the deer. It was at this point, I wondered what I had gotten myself into.

I felt the need to include the opening scene of “Captain Fantastic” because of the uniqueness of it. Coming in, I knew absolutely nothing about the film, but those first three minutes told me everything I needed to know; it was going to be a weird one.

“Captain Fantastic” tells a tale of a loving family, run by Ben (Viggo Mortensen), who runs his six childrens’ lives like a boot camp. Living in the wilderness of the Pacific Northwest, he teaches, trains and feeds his kids on homegrown food, all while having very little contact with the outside world. That is until his wife, Leslie, becomes very sick, having to go to treatment near her hometown and ends up passing away, leading the family to travel to her funeral in New Mexico.

The trip to New Mexico is a majority of the film. Overall, it is very comparable to the film “Little Miss Sunshine.” The two films draw a lot of parallels, such as a dead relative, a weird family and the disapproval of the outside world. “Captain Fantastic” feels like watching “Little Miss Sunshine” without as much comedic relief and the overall weirdness being a thousand times worse.

The thing that I could not make a decision on was Ben. He seemed like a loving father to his six children, but their quality of life was just horrible. The kids loved him because they did not know any better. Their life in the woods was their life; they have never known anything more. “Captain Fantastic” is not about a misguided authority figure in Ben, it’s about a crazed cult leader who abuses his children.

Ben has raised his family as a cult that hates the fascist establishment, which is anyone that is outside of their family. They spew off ignorance that they believe, which makes all of them feel better than everyone else.

It is so hard to watch when all the kids thrive in book smarts, but lack any sort of social skill that would help them in the real world. As the film went on, I felt the abuse in the kids. Ben would never hit them, but the physical toll he placed on his kids was heartbreaking.

Where do I even start with the strangeness of the movie? From celebrating a Noam Chomsky Day as Christmas, or going to their mother’s funeral wearing weird suites and even a gas mask, this movie is just weird. The fun and quirkiness of the kids is displayed in their lack of caring about what anyone thinks of them.

After watching the film, I honestly did not know what I felt. I was so confused I waited a few hours and then sat through it again. It is not a perfect movie, but it isn't a bad movie.

It has a lot of holes, but also makes a lot of interesting points. It has left a huge impression on me so I’m taking that as a good thing. The movie made me physically sick with how the kids were raised. They were a loving family, but only because they didn't know any better.

It provoked feeling, though, and mixing in the weirdness and uniqueness of “Captain Fantastic,” it ends up being a movie that I can go back to and enjoy.

Gabriel Hypes can be reached at ae.spectator@gmail.com. 

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