Even the title is great. I never gave it much thought until I tried to come up with some sort of witty title for this entry/review. I thought about “Where The Wild Things Took Me,” but that sounds cliche and cheesy. Also, it’s in the past, and this movie, despite having seen it two days ago, is still present.
Maurice Sendak deserves applause for that title. It tells you that this adventure you are about to embark upon will never end. This is only the beginning, the introduction to something new and wild and grand. The Wild Things will always be.
I never read movie reviews until I have seen the film myself. I don’t even really want to hear what my friends have thought if they saw it first. I felt particularly strongly about this adaptation. Adapting a 10 line children’s story into a feature length film is no simple task. The thought of someone telling me their thoughts on it before I could sit down to take it all in was not even an option. So, after seeing the movie, I read some reviews. There are strong reactions: love or hate. Some reviewers saw Spike Jonze’s adaptation as depressing and hopeless. Others saw it as intelligent and demanding critical thought from the audience.
Maurice Sendak was able to convey both depth and simplicity in a few short words. Jonze has done the same; just with a different medium. Dialogue is not always necessary, nor intense action. The ability to tell a story relying heavily on imagery and sound is a remarkable talent. I thought that the costumes were remarkable, which is to be expected from The Jim Henson company. The soundtrack blends into diegetic and non-diegetic sound creating a chaotic wild rumpus that is of course perfect for the action. And the cinematography coupled with the diverse landscapes took me back to some of the seemingly insane dreams and nightmares I had as a child.
I think it is easy to dismiss a movie like Where The Wild Things Are, to write it off as depressing and hopeless and without a clear story. But isn’t the point of childhood that it is confusing and full of wonder and a range of sometimes quick to change emotions? This is a simple story, and sometimes the story is that there is no plot. There is no reason. This is a story about childhood and life. Sendak was able to capture the essence of childhood, what makes it wonderful and brilliant, in a few short words. Jonze translated it onto film with an honest insight. Perhaps it helps that Jonze himself is clearly a sort of man-child who has not allowed adulthood to steal away his creativity, innocence, and willingness and desire to misbehave.
Where The Wild Things Are follows Max from his often lonely home with a disinterested older sister and busy but as-attentive-as-can-be mother, to the land of the wild things where a group of what appear to be monsters live an existence of argument, fights, cuddle piles, and games. You see, the wild things represent different parts of who Max is. They want order and control, but also thrive in chaos. They want freedom and endless games. Some are shy, some are angry, some are kind, some are critical, some ignored, and some are just great at making holes. Every wild thing has his or her own talent and strength. And together they create a family, a solid identity. And these wild things do not just represent pieces of Max. They are also real. Imagination is just as real as the world outside of it, and that is one of the many brilliant things about children. They get that concept.
Remember in The Breakfast Club when Allison says “when you grow up your heart dies?” It’s true. At least for those of us who can’t hold onto the things that made being a kid so great. And I don’t just mean when we had fun, I also mean when we were lonely and sad. Because at least as children we were honest with our emotions and how they made us feel and what we wanted to do with them. We yelled, we cried, we broke things, we were wild. We were free. We were truth tellers.
I think that if you are someone who did not like this movie, maybe give it a second chance. I was reminded of movies I grew up watching. A lot of them now don’t seem particularly appropriate for kids, like Watership Down, but they were. And they are. Why should kids be sheltered from sadness? We experienced it as children. We experience it as adults. I think I was hesitant about this movie at first because it reminded me so much of things I had forgotten and let die. And thinking more and more about it made me realize that that is exactly why I love it.