I wonder how many of the theatre-goers have actually read Krakauer? Or will read Krakauer?
I was pole-axed by the book while watching over an injured companion in Chomro, a three-building village on the way up to the Annapurna Sanctuary in the Himalayas. The book certainly resonated with me in a way that Sean Penn will never be able to accomplish. The movie celebrates but does not analyze the actions of Alex in the wild, and concentrates way too much on the "why" and "how" the kid got into the wilderness; Krakauer's story is very specific in its attempt to accuse the kid of being an idiot and then coming full circle to admire his ability to survive. I cannot remember the exact language he uses, but Krakauer basically says the kid pulls off an amazing feat of survival while succumbing to a mistake many experienced outdoorsmen make, regarding the poisonous plant he ingests. Krakauer makes his admiration very, very clear, and suggests that what the kid does is something every human being wishes to do but hasn't the guts to attempt. I think the real idiots are the busy bees who cannot and will not get out of the city into unregulated nature. Not the paved roads of Yosemite or Joshua Tree, but into days or weeks of no available social infrastructure. Maybe Penn's retelling of the story is idiotic, and perhaps an idiotic audience needs a paint-by-numbers guide to getting into the "wild" (and I thought the biggest weakness of the movie was the actual depiction of its tame landscapes, all 37 or whatever actual locations visited by Alex), but the actual kid dropping out of society's harness to answer the urge to escape is another matter altogether. Perhaps Alex was an idiot, and he did some idiotic things, to be sure, but his willingness to cross that river was a step of genius. Surrendering to nature, the tactile one you walk in, and the instinctive one you act on, is an essential part of being human.
Whenever I walk into a 7-Eleven, the elephants and sea lions and lemurs I have met in the wild, and all their cousins, wail a single encouragement into my ears: "Blow this ****ing place up!"
The "Wild" movie, Hollywood, and Sean Penn, cannot touch "Touching the Void," Joe Simpson's amazing story, or Carroll Ballard's "Never Cry Wolf," or even the sometimes-unbelievable Alastair Fothergill doc "Planet Earth." In the latter, fat cat David Attenborough laments in the finale that our choice is to "destroy or cherish" our planet; maybe Penn's "directorly" vanity should be destroyed, but the kid who wandered into the wild should most definitely be cherished.
Most readers of the book would be mildly let down by the movie, but still associate a good vibe with Alex running away from traffic lights and parking meters, and therefore let Penn off the hook. I was expecting an epic, something along the lines of "Walkabout" or "Picnic at Hanging Rock," but these sorts of movies have fallen out of favor compared to flicks where people's heads are blown to smithereens and other gimmicky fantasy. So Penn gives light rumination, hardly surprising. The shame is anybody seeing the movie will not be bothered to read the book, or will be prejudiced against its main character because of the movie.
Have you read Simpson's "Touching the Void"? Or, even better, Apsley Cherry-Garrard's "Worst Journey In the World"? Those two books are freaking bombs: mankind in nature, and the nature of mankind.