Review of Where The Wild Things Are

3 11 2009

where_the_wild_things_are_ver2I blogged a little while back about how much I was looking forward to this movie.  Well, I finally saw it and was very pleased with it.  I think that the film version of Where The Wild Things Are is the best possible movie that could have been created from the book.  That being said, you have to remember that the book had only 48 pages and somewhere around 330 words.  A feature-length film adaptation is bound to have an effect on the essence of a book that takes less than 5 minutes to read.

The thing about such a short book is that it leaves a lot of room for each individual to imagine and elaborate on the story.  The film is Spike Jonze’s imagination and elaboration of the book and, as such, it will not match up with everyone else’s imaginations.

As it turns out, my siblings, with whom I shared the experience of reading the book as a child, were hoping for a much happier product than Jonze provided.  I agree that it wasn’t an overly happy film and it focused a lot on negative emotions.  But I think that is part of what made the movie so impressive to me.  It shined a light on what I see as the simple and limited worldview of a child – not every child, but many children – of a striving for pleasure and avoidance of punishment.  Max’s interactions with each character in his imaginary world symbolized his interactions with himself or someone else in the real world.  It was not always a pleasant result for the viewer, but for me it was often poignant and meaningful.  And for me that’s where the power of the film was.

Another important result I perceived of the room for elaboration within the book is that I enjoyed the book, the movie and the trailer for the movie more or less equally.  Each was different in important ways and provided different, yet similar, ways of understanding the story.  The book is endearing in its simplicity and nostalgic of childhood, the film is symbolic and meaningful, and the trailer provides an image of a real world in which Max and the monsters exist without interpreting the story for me, all while The Arcade Fire’s song, “Wake Up” inspires me and enlivens my imagination.

Ultimately, I don’t blame anyone who read the book as a child for disliking the movie.  It should be unsurprising that not everyone would envision the story of Where of the Wild Things Are in the same way as Spike Jonze.  But as I said, I think it was the best kind of movie that could have been made from the book while still being, unavoidably, different from the book.

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