Into The Wild

Review Covers 2 Disc Special Edition DVD & Blu-Ray Version

Cover Art and Menus: 7/10
This is the type of cover that I like. Simple, but tells a story. The cover includes a shot of Emile Hirsch as Chris McCandless, sitting down in nature, having a seemingly reflective moment. This cover epitomizes the feel and focus of the film, and it tells a story without hitting you over the head. Of course, with the name of the film being Into the Wild, it is not hard to capture such a feeling from one photo. The truth is this is just a good simple cover for a good film. It is obviously much easier for me to like the cover when the film is this good.

The menus are decent, with shots from the movie mixed with quotes from McCandless’ diary. They are not bad, and they at least are not totally static.

Features: 5/10
There really are not a lot of features included in this Special Collector’s Edition, 2 Disk set. You would think that with all that room there would be tons of extras, but there really are only two short features included on the second disk.

The first extra is a short entitled Into the Wild: The Stories, The Characters. This short is basically an interview with Sean Penn, Emile Hirsch, and John Krakauer, who wrote the book that the film was based on. In this short the group goes into depth about the characters and how they were cast. It is an in-depth look at how the characters in McCandless’ life were meticulously brought to the big screen.

The second short is called Into the Wild: The Experience, which details the reasoning behind McCanless’ tale, and discusses different facets of the filming of Into the Wild. It runs about 17 minutes, and is a good overview of the movie, with little tidbits of information about the making of the film that would otherwise go unnoticed. The one part that really stuck out for me was the immense amount of weight that Emile Hirsch lost for the role (he lost a total of about 40 pounds to play McCandless).

While both shorts are good, there are still only two, and I am not sure that a second disk is justified for two disks.

The Blu-Ray edition features both of the documentary’s on the DVD in standard definition and the theatrical trailer in HD.

Movie: 8/10
Into the Wild is a movie that was the heart-felt creation of Sean Penn. Penn fought for years to get the rights to make the movie, which is based on the book of the same name that was written by John Krakauer. The story revolves around the journey of Chris McCandless. This journey is a spiritual as well as a physical journey, as McCandless decides to take a different route and leave society behind. He gives up on the rat race and decides to try to make it on his own, and become one with nature, in a personal search for the truth. McCandless graduates from Emory University with honors, takes on a new identity as Alexander Supertramp, and gives up this life savings and family to live life as simply as he possibly can. He decides to work his way to wherever he ends up, with Alaska as his ultimate goal.

Along the way he encounters numerous characters that are excellently presented in the film. Each person adds something to the experience, and you feel that you yourself are along for the journey as it unfolds. The film portrays McCandless as he journeys across the United States, in search of himself. The pace is borderline slow, but the film is nicely presented in chapters, which really keep this from being perceived as downright slow.

I found that it was easy to relate to McCandless’ character, either due to the likeability of Hirsch as an actor, or the idea that McCandless is able to just let go and fend for himself. The ideals and emotions behind McCandless’ journey are ones that seem to resonate with many individuals, even though few would go to the extreme of giving up their possessions in order to roam free. I liked the fact that McCandless was portrayed in a way that has him as not only an idealist, but also as a naïve young man, who is not necessarily clued in to what he has bargained for in the wilderness. It is as if he has made a decision to do something before he really understands what it means, which adequately describes his idealism. He is not necessarily presented as a hero, but just an idealist, which seems more realistic and true to the real story of McCandless’ life. Penn excellently demonstrates that while McCandless is running away from both his parents and society, he also relies on relationships and the help of others to get by. By forsaking his family, he in essence is forced to find replacement family’s as his journey unfolds, until at the end, he acknowledges the bond that he ran away from as being important.

One small gripe that I have with the film is the voice-over done by Jena Malone, who plays Carrine McCandless, Chris’ sister. I understand the need for someone to describe the situation at the McCandless home after Chris has gone missing, but I felt like there was too much narration done by her character. There seemed to me to be not enough voiceover from Chris, and too much done by his sister, which kind of pulled me out of the film a little bit. I know this may be random, but it just didn’t work for me. I think the viewer understood the pain suffered by Chris’ parents, and perhaps more shots of the family interacting with their pain, instead of numerous voiceover shots would have been just as good at conveying their pain. Instead we get shots of the family not really saying anything, with a narration about how Chris’ disappearance has affected them. Then again, who am I to second guess Sean Penn.

I really liked Into the Wild, and feel that it is one of the better films that I have seen from the 2007 films. The story is a great one, but Penn and Hirsch really take it to the next level with great vision and acting. Even the small characters add something to the journey, and it really feels like a journey. I liked almost everything about the film, but I especially liked the way that at the end of the film I felt that this was genuine. It may be hard to explain that last sentence, but I will try. The film to me was presented in a way that made everything seem real and not fake. The acting was done in a way that was believable, and the music and cinematography felt gritty and real. The story, while obviously embellished, didn’t feel overdone or crazy, and the whole film just felt, well, genuine. I will take genuine any day in the films that I watch.

Video & Audio: 8/10
The video is crisp and clean, and the cinematography is superb. It always helps when the backgrounds are spacious shots of the wilderness, which honestly is hard to mess up, but the entire visual look is quite stunning.

The audio is really pretty good also. Again, the 5.1 surround sound is nicely presented, even though this is not a bombastic type of film by any stretch. I have to point out the music of the film, which really seemed to add to the feel of Into the Wild. Sean Penn asked Eddie Vedder of Pearl Jam to record some of the music that is in the film, and it really seems to add to the earthy, dare I say it, grungy feel of the film. I am a fan of Vedder and Pearl Jam, so perhaps I am slightly biased, but I found the music original and as genuine as I found the film.

The Blu-Ray transfer is very good and up to Paramount’s usual standard for back catalog releases, blacks are very deep black and the stunning snow scenes are almost three-dimensional. The Audio comes courtesy of a great Dolby TrueHD track that while not stellar due to the source material it does the job just fine.

Value: 4/10
The two disk special collector’s edition is a bit pricey, and not that special for the price, but this is a great movie. I highly recommend watching this one, and it is one that I will watch again. It is for me one of the better films of 2007, and it would be a great addition to any film buff’s collection, but I am just not sure that there are enough “extras” here to warrant a two disk collector’s edition.

Overall Score 7/10