Into The Wild Review

Written for Original can be viewed here:

A beautiful homage to a modern day legend, or a puffed up piece of Americana?

“Into The Wild” is a movie chronicling the true story of Christopher McCandless, a disillusioned, but idealistic college graduate, who gave away his life savings to Oxfam before taking off for life on the road. His goal was to make it to Alaska, where he would live off the land, in the wild. An unquestionably intelligent character, his actions were inspired by the literary works of Jack London and Henry David Thoreau. Nonetheless, the choices of this mild mannered and deeply sympathetic character have been questioned by many as deluded, immature and even, mentally unstable.

I’m going to stop you here, dear reader — if you haven’t seen the movie, you shouldn’t continue with this review as there are major spoilers (it is definitely worth watching).

For the rest of you guys, I have to come clean. I’m finding this review impossible to write, simply because I know this movie divides people’s opinion so much. I’ve already been through a thousand discussions, and am fatigued. FATIGUED! Not just “tired”, I’m swooning like a Victorian heroine at the exhaustion of trying to defend my position on this movie. Consequently, I have written several reviews of this movie, for your reading pleasure.

Please follow the instructions, enjoy your review, and you can thank me later.
“Into The Wild” is a heap of Americana junk. It’s totally missed the point of the Chris McCandless story, who was clearly an ill-prepared, possibly mentally-unstable, idealistic moron.
→ Go to review 1.

“Into The Wild” is a beautiful movie, but there’s some questionable Hollywood interpretations of events going on there. And, don’t get me started on the flawed philosophy.
→ Go to review 2.

“Into The Wild” is not only a gorgeous piece of film, but inspirational. Sure it might be a bit polished up for the masses, but this is arguably to drive home the metaphorical, anti-establishment message at the heart of Chris McCandless’ actions.
→ Go to review 3.

Review 1.
Man, as if we’d be so stupid to fall for this hyped-up, Hollywood crap. Who wouldn’t want a sweet new ride from their parents, upon graduation? Dude! Not to mention, like, that Chris guy, turned down some sweet action with a mega horny Kristen Stewart, only to sing with her instead? I mean, he didn’t hook up with anyone the whole movie. Like, I totally didn’t get this film at all — Chris McCandless was a weird kid, who probably was like, autistic or some shit, and that’s why he gave all his money away and went into the wild. He couldn’t even kill a moose right. Like, man. Totally lame. The Hangover movies though? Watch that shit man, they are LEGIT funny!

Rating: 2/5

Review 2.
Oh hi there! Sorry to keep you waiting, was just having a quick shower after writing review 1. OK, so this position is definitely legitimised. Although Sean Penn waited a whopping ten years before getting the permissions of the McCandless family to make this movie, he did take some artistic licenses. How do we know what really killed Chris in the end? There are a whole heap of websites arguing all sorts of various endings online, so how could Penn just lump for the (almost trivial) death of eating the wrong roots? It seems strange to make such a specific ending without any real evidence. The movie is incredibly beautiful, especially with regards to the Alaskan scenes. Heck, this movie co-stars Kristen Stewart and Vince Vaughn… and it’s still pretty good. That alone deserves a pat on the back. However, it seems to be a flawed, idealistic philosophy which drives McCandless, and certainly, there’s a hypocrisy to making a Hollywood movie about a man who would have presumably, hated it. Nonetheless, as far as “inspired by true events” stories go, this isn’t the worst.

Rating: 4/6

Review 3
OK, so now we’ve got rid of the haters. Hi guys! It’s me, your friend who also loved “Into The Wild”. Sure, I do see the other criticisms. But boy oh boy, I would not want to watch “Titanic” with those guys, when they found out that Jack and Rose weren’t real. The obsession with arguing about whether Jack could have got on the floating door with Rose always leaves me feeling a bit dead inside, as somehow James Cameron made us care more about his fictional lovers on a fictional float and, you know, kind of forget that those other 2100 people died. No, but they really did?
Anyway, back to business. There’s of course some dispute about Sean Penn’s handling of this story. However, given the man’s preoccupation with McCandless for ten years, it seems highly unlikely that he was intending to roughly manhandle his tale.

In Penn’s defense, there are many elements of truth in the movie, thanks in no small part to his close collaboration with Jon Krakauer (who meticulously studied and first wrote about the McCandless story in the original book, “Into The Wild”). Also, he worked with the McCandless family, and even characters in the film were the people who Chris actually encountered (nerd fact: the guy who drives Emilie Hirsch to the drop off point at the very start of the film, and gives him his wellington boots, was the same man who did this for the real McCandless). But yes, we can speculate how Chris died. We can question the many different scenarios (and there are many proposed online), but honestly, to me, this feels unbearably redundant and pedantic. The death of Chris McCandless is not what this film hinges on, (despite it being desperately sad, of course) but instead, it is a movie about a journey, both literal and metaphorical. Chris McCandless wanted something more from life, and went to get it. He rejected societal norms (which, of course, some people feel comfortable with, and that’s just like, your opinion, man) , but he couldn’t live his life by them. I don’t believe that this movie suggests everyone should give away all their possessions and hit the road, but I do think it encourages you to think about what your value systems are. What matters to you? Does your life honour them? Chris’ sadness with his parents is founded from a good old-fashioned unhappy marriage, but finds its real roots in their disingenuous, superficial existences. Some people believe that the character of Chris (played superbly by Emilie Hirsch,who did all his own stunts) is almost deified. I can’t agree with this.

By the end of the movie, we see that he has realisations and presumably regrets. Even the stubborn minded Chris McCandless eventually learns the eternal lesson, that life is what happens when you’re busy making other plans. He is fixated on living in the wild in Alaska. On his way there, he meets a bunch of hugely varied and engaging characters (again, it is an incredible compliment to this movie that I like it so much and that some of these characters are played by Stewart and Vaughn). When he reaches his goal, the final lesson which he learns is that happiness is only real when shared. Although there is an element of pain in the final scene (he is seen to scream, rather harrowingly), there also is a further flash of forgiveness as he examines his relationship with his parents. Again, of course, this is poetic license, but given how roughly (and don’t forget, the McCandless family approved the movie, so we can only assume truthfully) the McCandless family life was handled, a final scene of forgiveness seems a forgivable and merciful trade-off to the family, and goddamnit, a nicer way for this highly likeable character to die. This movie is challenging, beautiful and anti-establishment, without losing heart and being utterly existentialist. Personally, it is one of my absolute favourites. However, dear friend, be careful who you watch it with, because as baffling as it is, this movie ruffles feathers.*

Rating: 6/6

* Corporate bastard or dumb as shit feathers though ;)

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