In 1996 the book “Into the Wild” by John Krakauer was published. The non-fiction piece was turned into a movie in 2007 with Sean Penn directing the film.
The story basically tells the life of a young man named Christopher McCandless. Originally John Krakauer wrote an article for “Outside” on him. Three years later an expanded version was published as book. Christopher McCandles is a bright young man who just finished college when he decides to leave everything behind and sort of drop out of society. He abandons his belongings, donates his money and starts travelling the country. His journey leads him through the United States down to Mexico before he ends where he always intended to go: Alaska. Arriving there he comes across an old abandoned bus somewhere in the wilderness which becomes his new home. After 119 days alone in the north he dies as it later turned by starvation.
Book vs. Movie:
I was really excited to watch the movie and already had the DVD on my shelf for quite some time. There was no chance I’d watch it without reading the book beforehand. Recently I finally got around checking out the film – and ended up very disappointed.
I was fascinated by the book and the ideas Chris McCandless had. In John Krakauer’s portrayal he comes off as a really smart young man whereas in the movie he seems rather foolish. Sean Penn constructed Chris who was played by Emile Hirsch as a rather clueless boy who actually hasn’t much of an idea what he is doing. He just goes through the world without a plan, without knowing or preparing. In the book on the other hand you see that indeed he did know what he was doing. He wasn’t just running around like a headless chicken. He informed himself, he planned, he rationed his food. In the movie it felt like the closest thing to getting ready for the wilderness was buying a book on edible plants. I was very disappointed that he was presented this way. The film shows him as lucky not to die any five minutes because of his lack of knowledge in the book you see that he was perfectly aware of what he was doing.
Another point that really frustrated me was the love story they simply had to force in for the movie. Somehow it seems absolutely impossible to shoot a hollywood movie without squashing in some romance. This scene was so completely unnecessary. I found quite upsetting to changing Chris’ really story.
Furthermore, what would have been an extremely interesting ending was left out. For his research John Krakauer had many interview with Chris family and with the people he encountered along his trip. Especially the reactions to his death were very moving. Chris’ parents for example travelled to Alaska to see where their son died. His mother leaves a small “survival package” there in order to help anyone who might do what her soon did. I would have been extremely interesting if the had ended the movie with a scene showing these reactions. If there was time for shooting some stupid and unnecessary romance footage there surely would have been enough time for this aswell without making the movie too long.
However, what I really liked was the soundtrack. It was contributed by Eddie Vedder and transported the atmosphere very well. The texts are thoughtful and match Chris’ attitude. The actors (including Emile Hirsch, Jena Malone, Marcia Gay Harden and William Hurt) also did a good job. They all played their roles very convincingly.
Summing up it is evident that the book is by far better than the movie. Not that the film is bad, it just bothered me that Chris McCandless was turned into a different person. If you shoot a movie about a real person’s life you shouldn’t make such changes. Should you only watch the film be aware that it is not as true to reality as the book. However, John Krakauers’s piece of writing is also by far sadder as it gives a better inside to the emotions of not only Chris but also the people he meets. It’s definitely worth the read.
But hey, at least they did a better job with this one that with the movie to John Krakauer’s other book “Into thin Air”. ;-)