Into The Wild - Movie Review


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Into The Wild

It's hard to review a movie based off a book based off a true story conveyed through sparse first person accounts and second hand perceptions, but I'm going to try anyway. It's easy to look at this film and give it a solemn respect, if only in accordance to those who are dead. This respect however is hard to reconcile in conjunction with the subject of the film, Chris McCandles, during his somewhat haphazard and definitely confused journey across land and sea, and it is a respect I will temporarily remove so that I can adequately criticize his fictionalized counterpart.
I apologize if my earlier comment ruined the movie for you. If you don't want to believe the subject of this film is doomed, you can come to a similarly deductive conclusion by listening to the films narration, provided by the protagonists fictionalized sister in past tense, or watch the trailer, or just read the book. In fact there is no way you wouldn't expect this young man's inevitable fate unless you fell asleep from the start. I wouldn't blame you. The movie is two and a half hours long. Believe me, it feels much longer.
In case you haven't heard it already, here is my summarized version of Into the Wild:
Chris McCandles, or the self proclaimed "Supertramp," begins his journey into manhood as a recent college graduate well known for his crazy-go-nuts behavior such as jumping really high onto a stage to receive his diploma and quoting Tolstoy. Oh my, what a card! Sick and tired of his parents offering him a new car to replace his old one, Chris-or should I say Supertramp, decides he's going to abandon his loved ones and trek across the country.
Shut up, that's why.
In an effort to stick it to a wasteful consumerist society, Chris bravely burns all his money, ditches his car, and then gives all his college savings (I presume provided by his parents) to charity.
In perhaps his most valiant act, Chris proves his bravery by reading every book by Thoreau without looking at cliff notes once and then goes on to quote it to every poor bastard that crosses his path, even if it doesn't relate at all to the current conversation.
Those poor souls hold the very heart of this film with absolutely fantastic performances by Vince Vaughn, Kristen Stewart, Zach Galifianakis, Catherine Keener, Brian Dierker, and the wonderful Hal Holbrook. Even those portraying Candles family are powerful in their presence, especially the gripping William Hurt and subtle Jena Malone. In fact, just about every character and person in this film is wonderful when they appear on screen, everyone except the main protagonist, who just shows up kind of like that guy at a party who no one wants to admit they really hate.
The entire movie is essentially this: It's like one of those online viral videos of a guy doing something really stupid out in nature, except longer and with less meaning.
The protagonist, although faced with numerous brave souls who have actually seen life, instead ignores their apparent wisdom and instead attempts to provide his own, which never goes far beyond "You can do anything," but sounds more like "Look how strong I am." The most tragic part is that these people appear to actually listen to him.
There are strong overtones of overcoming family struggles and abuse. Even these ring hallow as our only evidence of this is provided by a hallow narration by the protagonists sister which isn't as expository as it is awkward. Brief flashbacks illustrate it, but it never goes far beyond a paper thin excuse for the main character's actions.
His memories of his family certainly appear to affect Chris, as is apparent when he audibly curses his father while in isolation during his last few weeks. The film skims a number of moral themes, notably happiness as a shared experience, yet never manages to develop it. Of course the main character realizes how great other people are, but you can't help but wonder whether this is a lesson learned, or a sudden realization that maybe someone else could help him pick the right berries next time.
What the realization should be is that forgiveness is the bravest act of all, for others as well yourself. His lack of forgiveness, for his family, friends, and society as a whole, drove him out into the wild, literally tore him apart and ultimately led to his death. Instead of sacrificing his pride, he instead choose to heed his own hedonistic desires and live entirely for himself out in the wild.
Why in the world does this film respect this kid? Why would anyone see his actions as bravery instead of cowardice?
This is an exceptionally well shot film. It often looks beautiful. As a film, it is actually okay. As a moral or even intelligent example, I fear for whatever influence it may have. For that I feel the duty to give it a terrible review.
If you want to see a meaningful and underrated adventure film I suggest the brilliantly constructed Pee-Wee's Big Adventure. This, on the other hand, is hollow at its core.
Don't bother.

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