I spent parts of Saturday and Sunday running around to Hollywood and Blockbuster in search of Into the Wild, which just came out on DVD last week. My timing had been great--four of my classes had just finished reading (or pretending to read) the Jon Krakauer book, and I promised to show parts of the movie in class this week. My timing was good, but not perfect, because I couldn't find the movie anywhere.
Some students accused me of not really trying, and I was like, "I even checked at the Red Box outside of Jewel!"
Lucky for me there were a ton of copies at my local Hollywood when I checked after school today. So I rented it and just finished watching it. And my feelings, I have to say, are mixed.
I don't know if there has ever been a movie adaptation that I've liked. In fact, just today I was talking to one of my students about Like Water for Chocolate. The book is good, and one of my classes will be reading it next. The movie, though, is awful. My biggest problem with it is the lead actress, who is not at all like I pictured when reading. The only movie I think I like as much as the book is One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, although I don't think that counts because I'm pretty sure I saw the movie first. (Which leads to today's challenge, readers: Name one movie that's as good or better than the book. And please don't say The Princess Bride, because then I'll have to disown you.)
The problems with Into the Wild are many, mostly dealing with the writing and direction. I hate how so much of the focus is on the relationship Christopher McCandless had with his parents. In the book, it's there, but not as the overriding reason why this young kid took off without a trace to roam the U.S. until he ended up in Alaska. In the book, he's an explorer, someone looking to live in the world. In the movie, though, Alex seems to just be running from his abusive parents. I guess Hollywood needs an easily explained reason for everything.
Another problem is the pace of the movie. And length. At 2 hours, 20 minutes, there's no way I can show enough of it in class. (To get a taste of how slow moving the movie is, check out the official website.) Which leads to my biggest problem: You really have to watch the whole movie to get anything out of it. In the end, it really is quite haunting, but not unless you've sat through the whole thing. Which my students wouldn't be able to do, even if I let them.
But I am curious to hear what they will have to say about it. The ones who did read were quite baffled. They just couldn't get their heads around the idea of someone giving up everything to just roam. These are teenagers who barely roam away from their neighborhoods.
When we were discussing the concept of exploring in one of my classes, one student said, "That's such a white thing to do." I wonder. Is it?