Into the Wild
is a Biopic
by Sean Penn
based on the 1996 book of the same name by Jon Krakauer about the adventures of Christopher McCandless. The book and movie chronicle the life of Chris as a young man resentful of society and his family, who decides after graduating college to spend a few years travelling around and living off the land in Alaska. The book is written from the perspective of Posthumous Narration
and serves as a How We Got Here
look at Chris' brief life and final days.
Because the story's premise - that the protagonist leaves society, tries living on his own and ends up dying - is so well-known
, there is no need to mark it as a spoiler.
Not to be confused with the first book of the Warrior Cats
The book and film provides examples of:
- Adaptation Expansion: Tracy, a girl who had a crush on McCandless, was briefly mentioned in the book. In the movie, she is given more screen time.
- An Aesop: "Happiness only real when shared."
- Apocalyptic Log: The diary Chris leaves behind, including a note begging for help from anyone coming across his encampment.
- Breaking the Fourth Wall: The scene where Chris is eating a wild apple and he says how delicious, natural and organic it is, then he stares and gesticulates directly to the camera.
- Character Development
- City Mouse: Chris is pretty unprepared to actually live off the land: even with the training and advice he got from the people on the way up North he still makes rookie mistakes.
- Cluster F-Bomb: "Where are all the fucking animals?! I'M FUCKING HUNGRY!"
- Crucified Hero Shot: After botching the moose meat, we see Chris floating in the river (completely naked) with his arms extended upwards.
- Deconstruction: Of the Kerouac beatnik lifestyle. Chris experiences the immense freedom of living without boundaries or connections to the world but is also shown as hopelessly naive about his plan and incredibly unprepared to deal with the real consequences of his decisions. In the end, he dies because the society he so loathed was the only thing really protecting him.
- Defector from Decadence: Chris' father was an aerospace engineer and his family was quite wealthy. Before starting his journey, he had originally planned to go to law school with money he had saved.
- Doomed Protagonist
- Downer Ending
- The Film of the Book
- Fond Memories That Could Have Been
- Foregone Conclusion: Before the movie came out, pretty much the only thing everyone knew about it was: rich kid wanders off into the woods, lives in a bus, dies. It's even on the cover of the book.
- Green Aesop: Chris thinks this is the point of his journey. He's wrong.
- Go Out with a Smile
- The Hero Dies
- How We Got Here: The book begins with the last time Chris was seen alive and essentially traces back everything that happened up to his death.
- Irony: McCandless leaves in part to get away from his family, but the people he meets in his journey all develop a sort of familial attachment to him and in the end, the very place he wanted to be was with his family.
- Lonely Rich Kid
- Nature Is Not Nice: The protagonist doesn't realize this until far too late.
- No Antagonist: Except himself, and the full wrath of the Alaskan nature.
- Peaceful in Death
- Playing Against Type: Vince Vaughn, though portraying a gregarious fast-talker akin to some of his other characters, does so in a more dramatic context.
- Reality Ensues: A young college graduate that leaves all his possessions and goes on a hitchhiking trip, engages in reckless and risky behavior but manages to prevail thanks to sheer luck and happy coincidences, and then decides to go to Alaska "to live off the land" with no wilderness survival training whatsoever, refusing help from strangers, or to carry a compass or even a map. It ends just as you expect.
- River of Insanity
- Scenery Porn: It is Alaska, after all.
- Secret Other Family/Your Cheating Heart: The book reveals that the reason for McCandless's resentment of his parents is that he discovered that his father was already married to another woman and had a family with her, and his mother kept it a secret and pretended nothing was wrong out of the sake of their reputation.
- Shoot the Shaggy Dog
- Take That: The film makes a very pointy jab at Burger King: Shots of unhealthy food being deep fried? Check. A morbidly obese kid ravenously eating a burger? Check. A shot of a sign that says "It's okay to waste fries"? Check. Chris' manager asking him to wear socks at work? Check.
- Too Dumb to Live: Despite having great academical intelligence, Chris isn't quite as Genre Savvy about living in the wild as he thinks he is. His fateful mistake: not make sure the plant he was about to wolf down had any deadly look-alikes, though the "died after eating something poisonous" is something that isn't well supported by autopsy results from the actual body and was promoted mostly by Jon Krakauer- other experts tend to agree that it was more likely to have been caused by starvation.
- Too Good for This Sinful Earth: The intended angle for Chris' portrayal in the movie.
You're not Jesus
, are you?
- Walking the Earth: ranging from Mexico to inhabited Alaska
- "Well Done, Son" Guy: Chris' relationship with his father is like this in some ways.
- What a Senseless Waste of Human Life: The general opinion expressed by people the author interviews.
- "Where Are They Now?" Epilogue