Into the Wild (2007)

into the wild poster 2007 movie
8.5 Overall Score
Story: 8/10
Acting: 9/10
Visuals: 9/10

Good cast and visuals

Paints Christopher McCandless more in admiration than it should

Movie Info

Movie Name: Into the Wild

Studio: Paramount Vantage

Genre(s): Drama

Release Date(s):  September 1, 2007 (Telluride Film Festival)/September 21, 2007 (US)

MPAA Rating: R

into the west chris mccandless emile hirsch pacific ocean pch

See America

Christopher McCandless (Emile Hirsch) has rebranded himself Alexander Supertramp.  Graduating from Emory with honors, he has decided to wander the United States and explore a free world that he has never known.  Chris dreams of going to Alaska to explore the unknown and get in touch with himself in the isolation of the Alaskan wilderness.  As McCandless touches people he meets on his trip, the wilderness that McCandless discovers could be a fatal depth into understanding what drives him.

Directed by Sean Penn, Into the Wild is a biographical drama of the life of Christopher McCandless (February 12, 1968-August 1992).  It adapts the 1996 book Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer and premiered at the Telluride Film Festival.  The movie was released to positive reviews and received Academy Award nominations for Best Supporting Actor (Hal Holbrook) and Best Film Editing.

I read Into the Wild and saw the movie in the theater.  I got the same vibe from both the book and the movie.  Though it is a great movie and with great acting, the glossy, beautiful look of Into the Wild still (in my opinion) has the hard time covering the dark egotistical nature of the character’s trip of discovery.

into the wild chris mccandless emile hirsch hal holbrook

No…I will not take your hospitality and wisdom…I know stuff

McCandless is presented as reckless and entitled.  He is intelligent, and everyone around him has probably told him that.  Most people when they graduate college aren’t given a car and struggle to find a job for the rapidly approaching student loan payments.  McCandless can abandon life and wander because he doesn’t have the debt and problems.

The movie presents that his emotional state is problematic because of a childhood including possible physical and verbal abuse in an angry house, but it doesn’t seem to address any true mental problems the character might have.  When the McCandless character is told that he needs a permit and experience to kayak the Colorado River, he is upset that “the man” says he has to have a permit…there is no consideration of the experience requirement.  He of course succeeds which bolsters his invincibility and the character he’s creating in his own mind of Supertramp.  Going to Alaska, he didn’t even plan well for it.  The bus he found was not far from a means to cross the river…it isn’t suicide but it is suicidal…it is the belief that we are stronger than nature and can “win”.

into the wild magic bus alaska christopher mccandless emile hirsch

As an educated person doing more to discover where this “Magic Bus” came from might have been logical

The movie is aided by a good performance by Emile Hirsch.  He has energy, but the character can be hard to connect to since he believes himself to be an intellectual.  He has an air about him that he might be learning and essentially “slumming” with everyday people because in the back of his mind, he’s better than them…kind of like an early explorer judging and “above” the natives because he can analyze them.  He has a great supporting cast including Hal Holbrook as a man trying to reach him, Marcia Gay Harden and William Hurt as his parents that don’t get him, Jena Malone as the sister he leaves behind, Katherine Keener and Brian H. Dierker who become adopted parents, Merritt Wever as a fast food manager, and Vince Vaughn and Zach Galifianakis as harvesters McCandless befriends.

The movie also looks great.  It is shot with style and beauty and has a great soundtrack performed by Eddie Vedder.  The fact that it looks so good also is problematic in that it romanticizes what McCandless does.  It shows hard times (like beatings at the train station and homelessness in LA), but it doesn’t linger on that aspect…just the beauty of the surroundings (until the horror of death).

into the wild chris mccandless starving magic bus emile hirsch

Camping is fun. I’m smart. I can do it.

The problem with the book and the movie is that they are presenting who they think Christopher McCandless was.  It isn’t a 100% character study so to completely judge a person based on the text and film isn’t necessarily fair.  I am trying to judge the story on the story presented in the film, but in my opinion, he isn’t a likable guy.  The story has led to people seeking out the “Magic Bus” and more deaths and problems.  McCandless didn’t approach nature with the sense of respect it deserves and paid the ultimate price…calling McCandless by the name Alexander Supertramp just feeds the legend he tried to make of himself.  He isn’t original, and he isn’t the first person to have these thoughts, ideas, struggles, and challenges.  It is an important aspect of college graduation is this realization, and McCandless never learned this lesson.

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Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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