Although the book Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas is a firm classic and doesn’t take long to read – the film had a shaky start.  If you have yet to see the film, then you’re in for a wild ride.

What is Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas about?

It is a drug and alcohol-infusedbook about corruption and hippies and casinos – which sounds easy, but it isn’t. In a red convertible, Raoul Duke and Dr Gonzo, take you on a bizarre trip to the live casino capital of the world.

The dialogue is quick and sharp. While autobiographical in nature, it has some moments that you hope were real – just as much as you wish they weren’t. Various confrontations, police interactions, and a lot of kicking back at ‘the establishment/the man’. Fact and fiction become interwoven, and Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas is Hunter. S. Thompson’s most famous work. These styles of books are called a roman-à-clef – real people and real events, with thin disguises in the form of different names.

Hunter. S. Thompson was a writer that went above and beyond to capture and tell stories. Although best known for Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, he also wrote Hell’s Angels, The Rum Diaries and The Great Shark Hunt.

FairgroundPhoto by Prime Cinematics from Pexels

How did Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas do in the cinema?

In a word – terribly. Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas had a rocky start and a difficult time in the cinemas too. Initially, there was a budget of $17.5 million; however, the expected costs were somewhere far north of $19 million. Not only did the film go over its budget by a few million, but it also went over its allocated shooting days.

While the film was massively hyped, it was canned in Cannes. It didn’t get booked well in theatres and scored an awful C+ CinemaScore. In the end, the movie made less than $14 million, and the reviews weren’t great either.

But Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas is smart

Millions love the book, and the movie does go some way in capturing the thrilling ride. But, it isn’t a book or a movie for everyone.

Most movies that involve heavy drug usage, swearing, confusion and gambling have a specific audience. Putting it in the cinema was always a risky move, even with Johnny Depp attached to it.

Check out the best 10 movies Johnny Depp has been in that weren’t directed by Tim Burton

But Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas is smart. It has secured itself a cult following, and that isn’t an easy thing to do.  While a financial and critical failure when it was released, it was perhaps produced ahead of its time.

Weird fact: While the producers had ordered 25 animatronics, only 8 arrived.

Expecting to shoot the movie in any casino – the crew had to adhere to strict rules. Forcing the 1970s period to be footage from an old ABC show instead of the original plans. Last-minute re-writing, odd production and more are all obvious in the movie. And yet, it feels like it is meant to be there.

Johnny Depp took on the character as much as possible by living with Thompson and reading all of the real-life notebooks from that time. The costume that Johnny Depp wore came mainly from Thompson’s own wardrobe.

Each of the different drugs taken through the movie changes how the movie is filmed and shown to the audience. If you have already seen the movie, it might be time to watch it once again with fresh eyes. Seeing the difference in depth perception, colours, focus and light. The clever filming takes the audience through each of the effects and still adheres to the story. In most regular film viewing, you look straight on at the actors – regardless of the state, they appear to be in. However, Pecorini shoots at strange and distorted angles, leaving the viewer questioning if they themselves are okay. Slumped angles, tilted and tipped cameras, and distortion bring you into the action.

But it takes more than that to secure your position as a cult classic, though, even Anthony Bourdain loved this one.

Fear and Loathing in Las VegasBecoming a Cult Classic

On the surface, it is about an illegally fueled time in Las Vegas. However, the story isn’t just about that. It talks about the American Dream, making observations and having discussions that, if you let it, will give you pause for thought.

And, while we understand that we are in the casino capital and expect some debauchery, some imagery can be quite depressing, like a barmaid, who, while dressed as a clown, has no expression.

The discussion of gonzo journalism comes sharply into the light, too, with Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. The journalist themselves become part of the story. Rather than being presented with facts and figures, we are shown what it is inside that world.

We live it with the journalist.

Since the writer is part of the story, the viewer enjoys a much deeper connection and exploration of the subject matter. In this case exploring the American Dream, in the Entertainment Captial of the World, on many different drugs – something most journalists will never get to do, and that is part of what makes it so enthralling and a cult classic.