Movie: Into the Wild

Unfortunately this is not a review. I live in Madrid and it’s not showing here yet, I doubt it ever will! But it has been a long time since a movie has really called my attention, so I thought I might alert those who can watch it, to check it out!

For those who are not familiar with this movie: it is inspired by the life of 22-year old Christopher McCandless, who gave up his sheltered, well-off American lifestyle and all his wealth to hitchhike to Alaska and live in the wilderness in search of adventure, wanting to live his life, wanting to find himself.

Unfortunately, this vagabonding story doesn’t have a happy ending: four months into the adventure, hunters find his decomposed body.

An adaptation of Jon Krakauer’s best-selling book and screenplay/direction by Sean Penn, I cannot wait to see this film that explores the challenges and dangers of this kind of travel.

As you can imagine, much debate has taken place over McCandless’s decision to take-off on a life-changing expedition that landed up taking his life — martyr to the cause of attempting to change his life by becoming an adventurous wanderer, or rebellious young kid on an irrational trip?

Do check it out if you can! If anyone has already seen it — how is it? your opinion on McCandless’s drive?

Posted by | Comments (11)  | November 26, 2007
Category: Notes from the collective travel mind

11 Responses to “Movie: Into the Wild”

  1. j Says:

    I read this book shortly after it was published and have been living on or dreaming of “the road” ever since. Sure, it’s a shame that Chris died, and many have said that his “great Alaskan adventure” was a failure because, that he was misguided and naive.
    But as a 16-year-old reading Krakauer’s book, Chris’s story captured my heart and mind. Nearly ten years later, I still admire Chris, even envy some of the things he did (death not included). Chris had an amazing impact on those he befriended. He lived life on his own terms, helped to deconstruct social norms (with his story being told in Into the Wild) and lived by a righteous moral standard. And as evidenced by his own final words, he lived a good life. What more can all of us hope to say when our time has come?

    I have shared Into the Wild with friends, have even spoken at length with strangers about Chris’s story. Most seem to understand that Chris did amazing things, and that Krakauer’s excellent reporting brought Chris’s story to us all, so that we may have a contemporary figure who’s wanderlust and spirit for life provides us inspiration to hit the road.

    I loved the movie. Very few embellishments and Chris’s sisters’ journal, which acts as narration for the story, is a wonderful added element, providing more insight into the McCandless family life and some of the things that drove Chris to wander in the first place. Acting is superb all around and the cinematography is simply stunning. I rarely purchase a DVD, but when this comes out I think I’ll have to own it.

  2. Jordan M Says:

    I’ve come around to agree with this article, posted by a native Alaskan, and agreed to by many friends I have from that state:

    Also, here is a review of the movie I posted elsewhere two days after it premiered. I came to the conclusion McCandless was not that inspiring, more naive, irresponsible and hurtful to those people around him and an ideal for potential ‘vagabonds’ or travelers, nor a tragic hero. I have not read the book so this is based solely off my interpretation of the movie.

    The Movie Itself

    I thought it was decent. I thought the cinematography was great. But if that’s the first thing you have to say about a movie then I think that kind of shows that the story didn’t catch and hold you.

    One could definitely tell Sean Penn was directing this. It was pretty heavy-handed in the way it wanted to pull at you and ‘bring you into nature’ and make you understand and feel like McCandless with the sweeping landscapes, beautiful colors, and diversity of locale. The images definitely make you see again how diverse and beautiful the US landscape can be. The thing is, the damn kid stands on top of something and stretches out his arms way too much in the universal movie sign of freedom (and maybe matyrdom for our society’s ills is what Mr Penn was getting at but did in a shoddy fashion). There were some great actors in the movie. William Hurt, in a small, subtle but good role as the father, and Emile Hirsch, who is one of my favorite young actors these days, as Chris. There were some funny moments but the moments that were supposed to be sad or thoughtful felt wooden to me and I didn’t get the full emotion of the moment. I could also be a heartless, cynical asshole. Surprisingly best part of the movie: the soundtrack. I’ve never really been an Eddie Vedder/Pearl Jam fan but I did like the music he composed for the movie as well as some of the other non-Vedder songs selected for the soundtrack.

    The Kid

    I’m not sure of what kind of characterization Penn was shooting for. He did show a lot of the kid’s parents and having a tough childhood but I don’t think that that really should be a reason to be so selfish to a lot of the people he meets on the road. It seemed many of them genuinely liked him and wished him well and that he made them think about things differently but he never really changed. He was still pretty hard-headed and foolish in many ways I thought. It was brave what he did and I can’t say that I don’t admire his adventurous spirit but maybe a little over idealistic and overzealous with his motivations. Dealing with your parents and their foibles, the world around you in regards to money, politics and all the bullshit, the good and the bad, is part of growing up and maturing – escaping to the woods isn’t going to solve that if you don’t actually experience it and learn to cope. I think Mr Penn wanted us to see the diseased aspect of the civilization when showing him staying at a shelter in LA and why nature and escaping the city is better. Realistically, that kid made the right decision in leaving, because he didn’t deserve a bed in the homeless shelter or the handouts of food and what have you.



  3. Tom Says:

    Chris did not “do excellent things.” I don’t know whether he was clinically insane, but he acted foolishly and died because of it. There must literally be thousands of other examples of those who make their own trails without starving themselves to death when a little planning, e.g. a topographical map or talking to people about the area first, would have made the difference. Any one of those thousands would make a more fitting example for the hero worship.

    I think it’s great that so many people and maybe even most Americans admire those who live differently, but it’s equally sad when we make heores out of fools. And only a fool would go into the wilderness without knowing what he was doing or minimal planning or both.

    That’s the real lesson that Chris can teach young people. If Chris could see us now, what would he recommend? To act as he did at the expense of his life and families’ peace of mind (until they die), or would he recommend just a wee bit more planning?

    And from a different angle, imagine what a bright young man like him (who seems to have been creative and an independent thinker among other talents) could have accomplished and contributed to his family and humankind, potentially, had he lived a few more decades.

  4. Jordan M Says:

    My apologies for the lack of proofreading. This is the statement I wished to have made above: “I came to the conclusion McCandless was not inspiring, but that he was naive, irresponsible and hurtful to those people around him and not an ideal for potential ‘vagabonds’ or travelers, nor a tragic hero.”

    I think Tom summed it all up nicely as well.



  5. Aaron H Says:

    Has anyone claimed that Chris was someone deserving of “hero worship?” Every review I’ve seen of the film, or the book for that matter, points out Chris’ profound naivete.

    Certainly, his story is not one to be imitated, or even, for that matter, admired. But people are interested in Chris, I think, because everyone sees a little piece of themselves in him. Who hasn’t thought about leaving behind our society’s inexplicable obsession with garbage like reality shows and K-Fed and Entertainment Tonight (sorry, K-Fed). The book was so captivating because we can, to some degree, see ourselves in Chris’ position. His feelings of disillusionment and dissatisfaction with society’s idea of “the good life”– these are things we can relate to. But I think everyone realizes that his story is not an example for the rest of us– it’s a cautionary tale.

  6. Tom Says:

    Aaron- thanks for the clarification that this is presented as a cautionary tale. I wonder, though, whether those who profess to “admire” and “envy” him, and who are quite young, fully appreciate that this is the ‘anti-example’ of how to seek independent adventure.

    We all have much more in common than not, and of course this is one of the lessons of travel and living abroad, or perhaps just of living thoughtfully. Hence, one could question how meaningful it is to talk about seeing a piece of ourselves in Chris. I agree about being fascinated with those who dance to their own tune, but again, why not feature (in the book and movie) a more positive (successful? surviving?) example of such.

    More broadly, thanks for responding to my occasional comments. I enjoy visiting the site.

  7. Shann Says:

    I think most of you are missing the point of this film. The fact that Chris may have been naive and foolish in the way that he perished is not the purpose of his story. I think there are many people on this earth that have fallen because of stupidity or bad luck. Chris was living his life how he wanted to. We all die at some point, its what we do in the middle that counts. I agree with Tom, we can all see a little bit of ourselves in Chris. This film was trying to capture the pure wonder that this earth has to offer. A feeling of freedom and an inspiration to leave troubles behind and seek a life that truly represents what our soul yearns for. If all you can see in this movie is a guy that died from his naivete of the wilderness you have missed the point. I dont worship this guy or think he is a modern day hero but I do appreciate what he was trying to find or at least his passion for adventure, something we could all strive for.

  8. James P Says:

    I think people are being overly hard here with regards to Chris. I agree that he did things that could have saved his life like take a map with him, but he did this for a reason. He wanted to truly know what it was like to be alone and at one with nature. The whole idea of exploration is not knowing what is around the next corner and i get the impression this is exactly what he wanted. I don’t think that he has become a hero to many, but rather an inspiration in how to treat those around you and that money and possessions are not everything in the world. The earth is a beautiful planet that we all live on and too many people take it for granted. We live together in cities and it is a nice feeling when we get back to nature and experience life without the everyday conveniences that we all take for granted. He never tried to become a martyr or tried to prove anything to anyone and as such as i don’t see that gives anyone a right to damn him for his own choices.

  9. Sebastian Says:

    Death is inevitable, life isn’t. As I finished the movie I was a bit confused. I understand now how above comments mention an interpretation inside an interpretation. Everyone is different but we are only truely alive when we are passionate about something. Nature in this movie was only a timeline. Its beautiful when nature can epifanize your spirit. He called out to the wild because he called out to natures creation. When we don’t grasp the love we receive god will find his way in us. We are never alone. An example of this leads to the clips where he sees his friends and family. Our souls should thrive for the unknown, our experiences will be our guiding light. This movie was written and filmed in a true poetic nature. It was inspirational because life surrounded it.

  10. catherine Says:

    Chris experience made me sad. The first sight of moment, he is the topping student, but he was so impulse to travel without prepare. If he gets enough survive skill, he may not die so quick. It is tragedy. Before he died, he come up the pictures with hugging his parents so tight with tear, that is the most moving moment in my mind, at last he through the travel to learning how to love to family. He went into the wild, he did. But is it what he wants? During the travel, he understand, this world is beautiful, he still has someone to love, and he can love someone.

  11. charlote Says:

    He wanted to live differnetly. The fact that he did all this, he became famous and people had made a film about him, worte a book abut him. He did succed in finding something in life.