Into the Wild

Ernie and I head…well, you know.


  1. notrelatedtoted says

    Excellent review, guys.

    I quite enjoyed it, but wasn’t moved as much as the two of you were (but still found it heart-breaking). I think that may be because I read the book some years ago. IMO, Alex is in someways less sympathetic in the book than in the movie. It was hard for me to get past that.

    To dovetail with an earlier discussion: in the book, as I recall, (SPOILER ALERT) Alex ultimately realizes that he needs to go home. Penn does a good job of boiling the movie down to Alex’s story with some poetic license, and yet avoids doing violence to the story. Interestingly enough, I think Alex is just the sort of character who some people will read one way (admired, honored) and other people will read another (outraged, being a common response). A good example where the author (Krakauer) may have a different interpretation than the filmmaker, yet the two can exist side-by-side.

    If you haven’t read the book, I highly recommend it.

  2. Santiago says

    I want that poster. Where did you find it?

  3. Not Ted-

    I am a fan of the book from way back. I loved it. I leaned on the “honor him” side, I guess. It is more a man’s story but what i really latched onto wasn’t the getting-to-nature thing so much as the quest for purity.

    The fact that he became the good and pure things that he read-whether they were London, Tolstoy, or the Gospels-was inspiring. Every good thing he read lived within him. As a reader, that really hit me.

    I also was in college when I read it, broke on financial aid. I remember thinking how detached Chris was, to donate the $24,000 to Oxfam, to abandon his car.

    I was disappointed in the movie, though. I think it was lovely but it missed a few critical things in Chris’ story…SPOILERS FROM BOOK—

    1. Chris wanted to leave and actually posted a note on the door which read,”S.O.S. I need your help. I am injured, near death, and too weak to hike out of here. I am alone, THIS IS NO JOKE. In the name of God, Please remain to save me. I am out collecting berries”yadayada.

    I thought this was a misstep on Penn’s part. It really showed how, even though he knew that the river was not an option, he still prayed to get out, get back to civilization. Even at the point of death, he scrawled these words. They should have been mentioned, I felt.

    2. The book’s first lines, even the cover, describe the discovery by the two moose hunters. Then, it goes back to the beginning. To me, it was great because you knew from the onset what happened to Chris. The outcome was not as important as the message, if that makes sense. I felt like Penn jumped around too much.

    3. The book makes mention of Chris’ celibate lifestyle, which is really not shown. The scene with the teenage girl, to me, just seemed like he wasn’t interested. Maybe I missed it, though. In the book, Chris consciously chose to live the way he did.

    Things I liked-

    1. The sister’s essay of narration.

    2. The fact that some of the real people who knew Chris were in the film.

    3. The acting and casting were excellent, the best possible cast I think for Chris’ story.

    4. That Chris’ poems and underline-ings were shown. Although the book is MUCH more detailed, this is who Chris was. Dying to self and love of neighbor are some of the most frequent. I love that Penn kept some it.

    I must say that the book has one flaw….it jumps to Krakauer himself, and some other similar men, midbook. i feel like his editor should have suggested an epilogue or second section or something. I was dying to get back to Chris’ story.

    other that that, I usually include it on my favrites list. It’s great.

    Movie was good, too.

  4. Matthew Lickona says

    I just Google image searched “into the wild.”
    I think the film was really clear about his wanting to get back. The pain in his face when he saw the hat – the gift of love from a mother – across the river and ot of reach made that plain to me. Also, when he wrote that he had become “trapped in the wild.” Before, he had been living with nature. Now, it was clear to him that he wasn’t really one with the world around him, that he did not belong there. And of course, [SPOILER] when he reclaims his name at the end, that’s a pretty powerful testimony that he knows he belongs with his family.
    I thought the opening scene of the film, in the bedroom, made it pretty clear what was coming at the end.
    Interestingly, I don’t think the film goes too hard to the “honor him” side. When he sent the money to Oxfam, I saw it as the act of a petulant child, performing an extreme act in the course of rejecting everything his hated parents valued – in this case, Harvard Law. “Oh yeah, Dad? THIS is what I think of your fancy college education. This is the most opposite thing I can think of doing.” Yes, it was good to feed the poor, but his motives didn’t strike me as entirely honorable. As I say, I think the movie tells the story of his growing up (the chapter titles make this pretty explicit), moving from the foolishness of youth to the wisdom of age. I thought even the book stuff sort of played into this. He read, but he needed to live also, to encounter the humans whose goodness allowed him to believe Tolstoy when Tolstoy wrote about living as part of the human community.
    As for the celibacy – I agree about the scene with the girl, but again, it didn’t strike me as terribly noble. He wanted no entanglements with human society. So he kept out of love’s way.
    But then, I didn’t read the book. I’m just saying what came across to me in the film.

  5. Santiago says

    I remember, after having watched the film the first time, saying to a friend, “Perhaps he had a contemplative vocation. He didn’t seem to care much about sex.” So the point does kind of get across. But I think Matt’s last point here is pretty insightful, I hadn’t thought of it that way.

    It’s a shame that Barb Nicolosi dismissed the movie so quickly.

  6. Matthew-

    All good points.

    I guess my feeling was that the story should have been presented the way it really happened, when possible. It’s all so dramatic and poetic anyway and it’s true. Why make it a dream the mom had? Wouldn’t two moose hunters smelling death in an old bus be intriguing? Sean Penn himself said that he read the first sentences on the cover in a store and immediately bought the book and he read it in a night.


    That is what Krakauer refers to in the book. That maybe his lifestyle would have been cheapened by sex (paraphrasing). There is a lot of religious imagery in the book. Even the last sentence of the book says he died as “serene as a monk gone to God.”

    Look, like I said, I liked the movie. It was a good adaptation. Sean Penn truly seemed touched by Chris’ story.

    Ya’ll should read it. Except for the personal detour, it’s quite nice.

    Also, if you ever get to watch “Iconoclasts” on the Independent Film Channel, the one where Krakauer and Penn interview each other is great. They go camping at the bus site and show a lot of photographs of Chris that were excluded from the Outside article. they also take you in the bus and hold up different articles that belonged to Chris. They even lay in the bed.

  7. I forgot one thing—

    I think giving the money to Oxfam was more than a snub to his dad.

    His course load his last semester at Emory included classes on poverty in Africa. It was something he spoke a lot about.

    He could have just cut the money up in pieces, I think, if it was just about snubbing. It was 70 detachment, 30 %snubbing.

  8. Matthew Lickona says

    Fair enough.
    I think there was a lot of religious imagery in the film as well.
    Thanks for the additional info!

  9. maybe it’s that i HAVE to agree with you guys, matthew. maybe that’s my compulsion.

    BUT, I feel I must admit that the film was positive in another way. Having read the book years ago as a single person in college, Chris was living the way we all should, I thought. His familial problems, which were considerably more detailed and upsetting in the book, were disgusting to me and Chris was justified.

    But, being older, being a wife and a mother, there is a cruelness that I saw in the film that had never occured to me before. Would a lettter or phonecall have been so bad? I don’t know.

    I think there was a punishment level to his lack of contact. He sent Wayne postcards but none to his sister, for fear that his folks would find out.

    Maybe Sean Penn humanized his parents in a necessary way.

    I always remember, in the initial press for the story, they talked a lot about how the Parents went out to see the bus. They left some supplies and a sign that said, “Call your parents.”

  10. notrelatedtoted says

    “But, being older, being a wife and a mother, there is a cruelness that I saw in the film that had never occured to me before. Would a lettter or phonecall have been so bad? I don’t know.”

    See, this is one of the elements that I thought the film softened. In the book, I saw McCandless as being much more stubborn, selfish, and cruel, albeit mostly due to the fact that he was misguided.

    I’m not saying you’re wrong – I think McCandless is/was a complex character/person. He was a genuinely good person despite his faults. I think Krakauer did a better job of showing his complexity, but that’s an advantage that books will always have over film.

  11. Not Ted-

    Maybe I was unclear but I totally agree…I think I was personally closed to the selfishness, maybe because I was at a selfish age myself. And Krakauer did really show the whole story.

    yeah, books rock.

  12. Anonymous says

    Hmm. I’m a little curious about the not very interested in sex/contemplative vocation comment. That’s a bit scary and not my take on where a vocation like that should begin.
    Did I just hang in the wrong circles in college(okay, yes) or don’t we all know lots of people like Chris McCandless. I guess that’s part of why I liked the Krakauer sections interspersed with the story. In so many ways what starts out to be the zen journey turns into a Catholic one.

  13. notrelatedtoted says

    “In so many ways what starts out to be the zen journey turns into a Catholic one.”

    One thing that really impresses me about McCandless’ story is that I think he truly sought some kind of self-discovery. A lot of people say they want to “find themselves,” but really it’s just a convenient way to blow off life for a couple of years. McCandless, on the other hand, really was trying to find something, even when he didn’t know what it was. He finally does come to peace, and that’s how he knows it is time to go home.

  14. One of his last journal entries was “happiness is only real when shared.”

    Very true, Not ted.

  15. I haven’t read the book, Lindsay, and I WAS struck by the subtle cruelty toward his family. His isolation had a selfish quality to it. I think that came through.

    I read Krakauer’s Into Thin Air, compelling story, not great writing. Doesn’t surprise me he indulged in a little Enough-About-This-Let’s-Talk-About-Me stuff. It’s a way to pad a long magazine story into a book. I’ve seen that Iconoclasts with Penn and Krakauer. They’re both a little misanthropic I think, which makes the conclusion of this movie all the more striking.

  16. Anonymous says

    Loved the book. Looks like I need to check out the movie.


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