Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Into The Wild - the movie

Spoilers ahead.
I read this book years and years ago, and I recall really enjoying it and actually getting something out of Chris McCandless's story. For those who haven't read it or seen the film, here's a quick summary. The book leaves you with a feeling of longing, almost. Everyone at some point, wants to reject the day to day drudgery of daily life and the obnoxious commercialism that is the world that we live in, to just give it all up and run away. We've all felt it at some point or another, and that's exactly what Chris did. And you're left with a feeling that he did some noble thing by going to commune with nature in the Alaskan wilderness, and was unlucky enough to eat the wrong berries and die there. Bummer. Poor Chris. I felt this after reading the book, like a lot of people did. I read the book shortly after it came out, back in 1997. I was 17 or 18 years old, just graduating high school, and holding onto the same sorts of ideals that Chris McCandless lived - and ultimately died - for.

I watched the movie the other night, and I hated it. I hated Chris McCandless for his naivete and stupidity in doing what he did. It prompted me to do more research on the whole story behind Chris's travels and his untimely death in the wilderness. Let me give a disclaimer before I get into this: I mean no disrespect, to anyone involved, to Chris, or his family, or friends, or John Krakauer, or Sean Penn, or anyone else with any kind of stake or interest in Chris's story. It's a heartbreaking story, it truly is, and my heart goes out to all of these individuals. I just feel like maybe there's more to it than was presented in either the book or the film, and some of those conveniently omitted facts are pretty important to the way that the story is viewed by the general public, and the general spin that has been put on the way that Chris lived and died.

So, the little bit of research I did the other night resulted in two really intriguing finds. I came across this website, which provides a pretty convincing alternate view to the one presented by Krakauer in his book and Sean Penn in his movie. I also found this website, which provides a really humorous view on the whole story. Maybe the Terra Incognita site can be seen as sour grapes because Sean Penn made the big Chris McCandless movie before this guy had the chance, but it seems to me that some of the facts presented by these two sites are just that, and you really can't spin them: he had a map and he either ignored it or didn't know how to read it, he didn't seem to know what he was doing in terms of hunting/fishing/gathering food (and this was apparent from his journals, the book and the movie, too), he didn't bring proper supplies, and no one knew where he was. It was just pretty dumb of him to think he could do this just because he was pissed at the world or his parents.

I don't know. Develop your own opinions based on what's out there, this is just mine. I felt something after I read this book, and maybe that was because of my age or level of impressionability when I read it so many years ago, but I held on to that feeling until I just saw the movie, and it sparked me to think about the story again, and to look into it a little more. I'm pretty confident that if I read the book now, knowing nothing about the story, I would've been left with the same feeling that the movie has now left me with. Ultimately, I'm glad I saw the movie and it led me to change the opinion that I had after reading the book; though I'm not sure Sean Penn or John Krakauer would be.

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