Sean Penn has brought the book “Into the Wild” to the big screen. Penn’s adaptation of the best-selling book has stayed true to the source material, providing a powerful story and message that all young people can relate to. The best-selling original text of “Into the Wild,” written by Jon Krakauer, is one that truly defines an era. In a time when bands such as Nirvana were still fresh in people’s minds and voicing the disillusionment and lonesomeness of a generation of children left with the questionable ideals of a society they could not relate to, a young man named Chris McCandless (a.k.a. Alexander Supertramp) began a journey of realization and fulfillment to Alaska.
To give some background on the novel that Penn’s screenplay so aptly adapted, one must realize that it is not a novel in the traditional sense. Sure, it contains a protagonist, a problem and a task. However, the story is written not by the author so much as the people that McCandless meets along the way and bits and pieces of his own journal entries.
It begins at Emory University and McCandless’s graduation with his mother, father, and sister. McCandless graduated with honors and has somehow managed to leave college, not in debt, but rather $25,000 to the good. What his family does not know is that in the following days, McCandless will donate that entire sum to charity, burn his social security card, cut his credit and debit cards and head out across the country in his beat-up Datsun.
Here is where the story truly begins as he starts to encounter and develop lasting relationships with numerous travelers such as himself who move for the sake of it and answer to something higher than the culture they have found to be unfitting to the lives they choose to lead. The story continues through quotes and interviews given by McCandless’s friends and ultimately ends with the journal entries that chronicle his days in the wilds of Alaska.
Upon hearing that this incredible work was going to be turned into a movie, I was excited and in fact watched the preview almost twice daily for weeks. However, many fans of the book may not be able to accept the fact that the film can compliment the book as well as it does. Perhaps it was the age old ‘the movie was good, but the book was better’ syndrome. Whatever the case, one can certainly say that as his directing/writing debut, Sean Penn has certainly outdone himself.
Not only did he capture the essence and journey of McCandless, but he illuminated things that the novel either did not have complete information on or just chose to touch upon. This is one of the best movies in recent years and the relevance that it has to young men and women of today is unquestionable. It is one that will overwhelm any audience member.
This story of a man looking for truth and freedom and, ultimately, finding himself is one that should be viewed by everyone, especially college students of today. Though in some parts little flaws in directing are evident, there is no question that Penn has a truly emotional attachment to this story and he brings that out in stunning Technicolor on screen. For anyone who feels that maybe capitalism is in fact organized crime, or simply that there has to be more than walls in life this is a movie for you.
Nick Mehalick is a student at West Chester University. He can be reached at NM517216@wcupa.edu.