Into the Wild, dir. by Sean Penn, based upon the novel of the same name by Jon Krakauer
I recently watched Into The Wild, a film I’d purposely avoided during its initial theatrical run. While it had gotten plenty of acclaim at the time, and at least the Golden Globes enjoyed it, the truth is that most of the other films Penn directed left me cold so I simply avoided it. Plus, it had music by Eddie Vedder, who was profound when I was 16, but not nearly as interesting at 33. Still, I remained curious and when I finally saw it in one of those Red Box machines I thought I’d take a flier and if the movie was terrible, at least I’d only spent a buck on it.
Quite to my surprise, the movie was incredibly enjoyable. I remember what kind of a fool I was at 19 or 20, back when it was cool to think about running off and living off the land and having grand adventures and it was somewhat bittersweet watching somebody who had the nerve to do such a thing and thinking about all that I’d missed. At the same time it was a bit sobering, and sad really, to see the dreamer/individualistic type, much who I was and still am, killed by his own naiveté. Not that I would have necessarily died, but seeing how easily it can happen is really very eye-opening.
Revisiting the book, which I hadn’t read in nearly a decade, back when it first came out, it seemed like the movie and the book were something of two different animals. While they generally had the same story and took the same tone, the book was far harsher on Chris McCandless, painting him less as a dreamer than as somebody with amazing hubris. The movie seemed to argue that it was naiveté that killed him, that he died because he just didn’t know, whereas the book made it clear that he was killed because he didn’t think what he didn’t know was important. It was his extreme egotism in his own abilities that eventually did him in.
I suppose I could quibble with the tone of the film verses the tone of the book and how filmmakers should aspire to greater fidelity for the written page, but while the book was a fast and entertaining read – a cautionary tale, really – to see that same story played out on the big screen as it was in the book, would have been as deadly dull and depressing as any other Penn film.