Well, I’ve got this nagging urge to write some more about “Into the Wild” — mainly because I’ve been having a hard time reconciling my first impressions with those of everybody who’s raving about what a great film it is.
What I’m thinking now is that people are responding to the myth crafted by Jon Krakauer and Sean Penn, rather than the reality of what happened in the Alaskan wilderness.
In the myth, a brave young soul bent on finding the truth and rejecting middle-class materialism hits the road, has a string of remarkable adventures, meets a bunch of cool people and only accidentally meets a tragic fate. It’s a compelling story, especially when decorated with the jaw-dropping splendor of the American wilderness.
What really happened, though, is that one Christopher McCandless abandoned his family, took on a new identity and wandered the West till an adventure in the Alaskan bush killed him. All that’s really known — beyond the pain inflicted on his family — are the memories of his fellow travelers and the jottings in his journals. The rest is speculation threaded into an interesting narrative.
It’s not a documentary.
Those who side with the dreamers are bound to say embrace the myth of the roving truth-seeker, while those who side with the realists are bound to say ignore the exploits of an arrogant bumbler who got what he deserved.
I’m a realist who wants to embrace the myth. Natural consequence: angst.
But is the movie worth seeing? For the most part, yeah. It’s like art in the sense that it lets viewers fill in the blanks with their own impressions. People sitting side by side can walk out of the theater with opposite conclusions. Go and decide for yourself.
But don’t go expecting any insights into the wilderness. You already know your life here is on loan, and that soon enough your biomatter will return to the earth from whence it came. “Into the Wild” is a fine story, but there’s only so much wisdom to be gleaned when somebody dies trying to live life to the fullest.