Into the Wild – movie vs. book
I finished reading Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer last week (read my review here), and in the course of my web-browsing before writing my review, I came across a TON of varying opinions of people who felt very strongly – not necessarily about the book or movie itself, but about their subject, Chris McCandless.
I’m a very clear “must read the book before I’ll consider touching the movie” type of girl when possible, but I do typically enjoy watching movie adaptations from books. So, after finishing the book, it’s only natural that I’d be curious to see what Sean Penn did with it in movie format – and how he turned a book that was essentially a documentary into a movie with actors and a story.
I’m pleased to say that movie compared to book quite well. Each had their strong points – I had an easier time keeping the path of his pre-Alaska wanderings straight in the movie, and the movie was gorgeous and exceptionally well shot, and I imagine that it really helped bring the environment to life for people who haven’t been to Alaska. Conversely, the book was (obviously) better able to explain some things, particularly the circumstances surrounding his death, in clear detail, and some of what I thought were the most affecting parts of the book, that of the aftermath of McCandless’s death, were reduced to a mere footnote in the movie, or absent altogether.
I also thought the movie came down a little harder on both Chris’s parents and on Chris himself. The first one is understandable – because the book spends much more time with Chris’s parents after his death, and lets them speak for themselves, they’re much more sympathetic than they are in the movie, which shows their relationship largely from Chris’s perspective. On the other hand, Chris seemed a bit more “out there” in the movie than I really got the sense of from the book, less just “off the beaten path” and more “actually slightly crazy” although I can’t put my finger on why – acting choices or scriptwriting choices, I don’t know.
One final note – I am not a compulsive credits-watcher, and I was already getting up to turn off the DVD player when I noticed that Jim Gallien – the truck driver who drove McCandless to the start of the Stampede Trail, and the last person to see him alive – was played by himself. I thought that was a nice touch, and that it really spoke to the filmmakers’ commitment to get things right, and to tell the story with as much respect as possible, both for Chris and for the people he left behind.
What about you guys? Seen the movie and/or read the book? What did you think?