The Pantheon #2: Into the Wild (2007)

“To find yourself at least once in the most ancient of human conditions.”

The purpose of the pantheon is for me to have my own little section of the internet to share love for certain films that I feel deserve to be lauded over. Sometimes it’s films that I feel have been overly praised and it’s almost no longer necessary to be talked about anymore, other times (like now) I feel it’s a film that isn’t mentioned enough and I need to be that person to lift the film up on my shoulders and shout its praises once more for the world to hear.

I can’t remember what initially drew me to the act of actually watching this film, but I remember what allowed it continually linger in my mind. Many films every year delve into the idea of youthful rebellion; it’s a stage of life that many people eventually go through in one form or another. We all instinctively want to break out of the mold that’s been made for us and create our own unique identification which makes us us, rather than just be what the world wants us to be. Here however I think we have a special case of rebellion and one that I can’t help but be especially touched by Christopher McCandless’ (Emile Hirsch) very extreme version of rebellion.

Once having finally graduated from college he decides to head out on his great Alaskan adventure. Now some may think of this as a normal tale of a young adult heading out into the world for a vacation, but when you decide to donate your entire life savings to charity, destroy every piece of identification you’ve ever owned, abandon your mode of transport, burn the remainder of your money and only trust your ability to maneuver through this world in nature and what you have packed on your back you know that you’re going for broke.

“So many people live within unhappy circumstances and yet will not take the initiative to change their situation because they are conditioned to a life of security, conformity, and conservatism, all of which may appear to give one peace of mind, but in reality nothing is more dangerous to the adventurous spirit within a man than a secure future. The very basic core of a man’s living spirit is his passion for adventure. The joy of life comes from our encounters with new experiences, and hence there is no greater joy than to have an endlessly changing horizon, for each day to have a new and different sun.”
— Chris McCandless

The stakes are raised immediately due to the extreme nature of Chris’ adventure which is why while we may not all be jumping at the chance to follow him in his footsteps – literally – we are definitely there for every step of his journey loving every gem of life that he manages to find as he moves across the country and experiences that we may never be so privileged as to have due to our own fears of making such a commitment.

Penn’s film doesn’t come without its own few flaws along the way, but isn’t a flaw just something that tests an audience at the end of the day. If you, as a viewer, can see a flaw for what it is – a mere limitation – and embrace it rather than pick at it like a bitter critic then all it means is that this movie is more for you than you could ever imagine, which is how I know this is a film for me. Yes there are a handful of moments that feel slightly staged for the sake of bringing a point across, and while a lot of the film’s facts can (and have been) be validated it doesn’t stop the filmmaker from twisting a note here or there for effect and taking license with moments that no one could ever know actually played out the way they are eventually portrayed on screen.

At the end of the day I still love the film for what it managed to bring out of me, true unadulterated love and belief in our protagonist. I wanted him to accomplish something, and somehow even with the end that he’s given I feel like he got more than he could ever imagine he would ever get, in a good way.

What’re Your Thoughts on Into The Wild?

  • Steven Flores

    I agree that it’s flawed as I had issues over the way it ended.  Still, I think it’s a marvelous film with Emilie Hirsch in definitely his best performance so far (what happened to him lately?)  Plus, I have to give a shout-out to my gal Jena Malone who does some great narration in that film. 

  • SJhoneywell

    This was a film that I expected to be lukewarm at best toward, but I found it very much worth my time. I found it to be essentially the story of a man who pursued a great truth and discovered that perhaps the truth he sought was wrong. But there’s no shame in that sort of failure, and the movie is gorgeous.

  • Andrew Robinson

    I do so love the narration… I think I noticed it a lot more this view. How a lot of its ideas synched up with what Alex (I like to think of him as Alex rather than Chris for some reason)

  • Andrew Robinson

    I agree so much. Part of it’s intrigue is the surprise it gave me on my first viewing. As I said, I can’t remember what prompted me to watch it (I know it was before I was reading and participating in blogging and such) but I was just so happy with what I got in the end and every time I revisit it I see something new whether it be a character arc or just a plain nuance that makes me just like the film a little bit more each time.