Movie Review: Into the Wild – Where I cannot follow

Into the Wild

directed by: Sean Penn

with: Emile Hirsch, William Hurt and Chatherine Keener

rating: 2 ludwigs

Many of my friends on facebook recommended I should watch ‘Into the Wild’. They called it great and inspirational. I guess that only goes to show that tastes do indeed differ, even among friends. I didn’t like it. And what was worst about it, was that for a while I couldn’t exactly tell you why I didn’t.

Based on a true story, ‘Into the Wild’ follows the two year trek through North America of Christopher McCandless. After graduating Chris leaves his conventional life behind, donates all his savings to Oxfam and hitch-hikes into the wilderness. On his journey he uses the pseudonym: Alexander Supertramp.

I can hear you thinking; hey that wanderlust, and leaving behind materialistic nonsense in search of meaning and of self, isn’t that exactly what you would like. So what gives?

Well, yes. I have enormous respect for adventurers and whenever I see the sun set over a road that aims for the horizon, I can’t help but wonder how it would be to follow it and leave the rat race behind. But that doesn’t stop the character of Chris coming across as a pretentious prat. Sprouting quotes of presumed wisdom whenever he feels it is called upon. I had an instant allergic reaction to him.

That wouldn’t be so much of a problem, characters can grow throughout a story after all, if Sean Penn hadn’t decided to oversimplify his situation. I can live with an unsympathetic main character, but please don’t treat me as a fool. Throughout the film, Chris’ parents are demonised and turned into charicatures of greed rather that three dimensional characters. The same goes for whoever he meets on the road. They are all good and content. That just doesn’t sit well with me.

I don’t think it does much justice to whatever Chris went through on his journey either. Most of the time, Penn portrays it as a happy camping trip. Chris kayaks down the Colorado river with a smile and reappears from the Mexican desert with the same smile. In reality there must have been so much hardship, that just does not appear in the film. Yes, he gets beat up once, but in the grand scheme of things the whole journey doesn’t not seem to cost him much effort at all. And I just don’t buy that.

Maybe fatherhood played an issue, I’m not sure, but the thought of a son willingly abandoning his family and then purposely not letting them know how he is doing at all as he travels into the wild ridiculously, suicidally unprepared, is just appalling. I admire people like Sir Edmund Hillary, who test themselves against nature, with respect and forethought. McCandless, in hindsight, just seems foolish and naive. A waste.

Why should you watch this movie? Most of all to make up your own mind on whether what I say makes any sense at all. Personally I don’t like the character, and don’t like the filter Penn put over the story. Some of the scenery on the other hand is breath taking, and the score by Eddie Vedder is awesome. Both of those salvaged a ludwig for ‘Into the Wild’.


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