Into the Wild - (Blu-ray Edition)|
Paramount Pictures | 2007 | 148 mins | Rated R | Dec 16, 2008
Written by David Hillyer
December 14, 2008
Into the Wild, an adaptation of a book by Jon Krakauer, chronicles the brief life of Christopher McCandless. McCandless was a 20 year old college graduate who seemed, by the world’s standards, to be heading for a life many dream about – six figure salary, trophy wife, nice cars. But as with most recent graduates, it was easy to become discontent with life. He was discontent with society, his parents, and living the life that was expected of him. So he threw it all away and headed west to experience life and maybe get some answers to those inner questions that we can never seem to put into words. The movie follows his adventures throughout western United States which ultimately end in the Alaskan wilderness.
Those of you who have read the book or articles about McCandless know that there are very different opinions about his life. In many ways his story is tragic and frustrating – he was running from a dysfunctional family – and through a series of foolish mistakes he ended up dying not far away from a town with people that could have helped him. Many just see him as a misguided kid looking for an adventure in the Alaskan wilderness he was grossly unprepared to visit.
Director Sean Penn takes a romanticized view of McCandless’ life and that is why this movie is attractive to so many. The film portrays him as a heroic figure – living his dreams and fulfilling the desires that most people never get to live out.
The film is masterfully crafted in many of the actual locations where McCandless traveled. The scenery is stunning but they don’t dwell on it so much as to take away from the story. Having viewed both the DVD and Blu-Ray of Into the Wild, the detail of the Blu-Ray is a big improvement over the near flawless DVD.
The cast is a mix of veterans, newcomers, and local characters that bring an incredible amount of life to the movie. McCandless is played by Emile Hirsch who endured all the rigors of 8 month long location shooting and a crash diet in which he lost over 40 lbs. His stoic parents are played by William Hurt and Marcia Gay Harden while his sister, who also narrates, is played by Jena Malone. Along the journey we meet a hippie couple (Brian Dieker, Catherine Keener), a farmer (Vince Vaugh), and a loving grandfatherly man (Hal Holbrook). All of them are prefect for the roles. Holbrook deservedly received an Emmy nomination for his work.
Having recently returned from my own “wilderness experience”, I found this story to be both amazing and tragic. I knew the ultimate outcome to the story before watching the movie, but I still found myself engrossed in the film and hoping for a profound conclusion. I found my answers and returned to living in community with others – no longer yearning to be alone. I really hoped for a similar profoundly deep experience while watching this movie, but the facts of the story bring everything to a tragic end.
Having talked with many people who resonated with the themes from Into the Wild, there seems to be a common thread. I suspect that secretly most people have a desire to just forget everything, move someplace beautiful and remote – far away from the troubles that we mostly bring on ourselves. Just forget our past, start over, do it right this time, and be happy. The tragedy of Christopher McCandless’ life is he probably found his answers, but never returned. He found that happiness is only real when shared. Tragically, he died alive, but alone.
Also included on the Blu-Ray disc is the theatrical trailer for Into the Wild, which is the only extra that is in High Definition. That’s all. There was mention of a piece on the ABC news program 20/20 (May 30, 1997) about McCandless but it is not included on the disc. There could and should have been some type of documentary about the real life of Christopher McCandless, the different opinions about his life and death, and the differences between the book and film. Unfortunately we have to rely on the internet to find such things.
Thankfully they didn't resort to calling the Blu-Ray version of Into the Wild a “collector's edition” like they did with the 2-disc DVD double-dip. The Blu-Ray does include all the extras of the collector's edition however they are still in standard definition. What is included is interesting but only scratches the surface for what could have been a great disc.