Spirit (Matt Damon) grows up in a herd of wild horses and as he grows, he becomes their leader. But one day men, white soldiers and settlers, turn up in the horses’ territory. Spirit tries to save everyone and ends up getting captured himself and brought into a fort where the Colonel (James Cromwell) tries every trick in the book to tame him. But Spirit won’t be broken and even manages to escape with the help of native Little Creek (Daniel Studi). The Colonel doesn’t give up that easily though.
When I was a kid, I was a horse girl. I went horseback riding for many years; I read countless horse books; I nearly broke my jaw when I fell off a horse once (not the only time I fell) and decided I had to rent that particular horse permanently for a while. That’s how obsessed I was. But I was just a little old for Spirit – it came out when I was 17 and pretty much past the horse thing. But my niece has the DVD and in a moment of nostalgia, I decided to watch it. I think if I had seen it 20 years ago, I would have loved it. But now, while the horses are cute, I am not really sold on the film.
It starts with the fact that the film just has way too much voice-over for a film that’s told from the perspective of a fucking horse, and not an actually talking horse either. And not only that, the horses are constantly whinnying, making sounds, and basically have human expressions, moving way past what’s natural. It would have probably worked better if they had just made them talking horses. [Equally unhorse-like was the fact that Spirit became the leader of the herd despite only being a couple of years old, so pretty much a teenager in horse years. It was also completely unnecessary for the story.]
I’m also not entirely sold on the story that basically boils down to “natives are so much more natural and less cruel than white people and their harmony with nature allows them to be friends with the animals rather than tame them.” And, surprise, surprise, natives are not some magical mystery, they are people. That romanticizing shit really isn’t helpful. Especially since in the end, [SPOILER] they don’t even really get away – the Colonel lets them go, leaving the power in the entire situation squarely in his hands. [/SPOILER]
And while they did cast a Native American for the role of Little Creek, why the fuck is the wild horse – also arguably an original inhabitant of what was not yet the USA – played by a white guy? Though I guess I should be happy that at least Native Americans got one voice in the film. Women weren’t so lucky. While there’s Spirit’s mom and a – promplty fridged – love interest for him, neither of them gets any voice over and there are no human women talking either.
All of those things annoyed me too much that I could enjoy the film, horsey nostalgia be damned. I guess it wouldn’t have been a great loss if I hadn’t seen it after all.
Summarizing: Unless you’re obsessed with horses, skip it.