Where the Wild Things Are: Don’t Believe the Hype

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Spike Jonze’s Where the Wild Things Are came out on Friday. People everywhere freaked out about this movie, but was it worth the hype and praise it was given? Marice Sendak first published Where the Wild Things Are in 1963. Forty years later it is made into a movie. How can you take a children’s story that consists of about 20 lines of text, and turn it into a 94 minute movie?

You stretch the crap out of it! This movie was the longest 94 minutes of my life, it went on forever. A majority of the scenes were stretched out with the characters just staring at each other. That’s it, just staring at each other, off into the distance, at a random object or at the sky. The pacing of the movie was very strange. Usually you have your story, it progresses until a climax, then the turning point, and the resolution. This movie was set up like a child tells a story. “First this happened, and then we did this, and then we did this, then I did this, then I went home.”

They took an interesting turn with the story of Max. Instead of making him a little terror of a child that needs a good smack, they make him the child of a broken home. Dad is either dead or divorced, Mom doesn’t pay enough attention to him cause she is working, the older sister would rather hang out with people her age than him (understandably so),  so Max is left to his own devices for entertainment. Because of this neglect he acts the way he does, but those around him don’t understand this.

Once Max is on the island of the Wild Things, you can sort of see the projection of characters in his life on those creatures. He sees himself as Carol, because Carol is misunderstood and a sort of outcast when we first meet him. Then as we meet more of the creatures you see who matches up to who in Max’s world.

No one went into this expecting an epic telling of Where the Wild Things Are….I hope. We went to see the characters from our “favorite” childhood story come to life. I say “favorite” because whenever something nostalgic pops up in current culture, everyone latches onto it. Usually dragging it into the ground, or raising it to such praise that it can do no wrong. The nostalgia train is at full steam, the visuals of the movie are amazing.

The Wild Things are possibly one of the best creature creations I’ve seen in a movie in a long time. The actors wore the giant suits, while the faces were computer rendered. Max looked just as you expected, the fox/wolf suit is worn through the entire movie, it even gets muddy and beaten up as the story progresses. The crown and scepter have an amusing introduction. Carol, the “leader” of the Wild Things, pulls the items from a pile of humanoid looking bones. Which makes Max question if those were the other kings they had.

Which brings me to the oddest part of the movie. This is a movie about a children’s book. It seems to be directed towards children in the advertising. This is NOT a children’s movie! I can’t see a kid sitting still through this movie. I work with kids and they can barely pay attention long enough to walk down the hallway. The slow pacing and dull colors are not enough to keep the attention span of a kid that is hopped up on candy and soda.

Not only that, but there are some out right scary moments. There is a scene were the other Wild Things make Max think they are going to eat him. Complete with talking about how his bones will taste, circling around him, gnashing their terrible teeth and rolling their terrible eyes and showing their terrible claws. Then in another part, a Wild Thing lashes out and rips the arm off another creature, then chases Max through the forest threatening to eat him. Even though you know what will happen since you read the story, you still feel that uneasiness that Max may get hurt.

The action scenes were pretty cool to see. The Wild Rumpus is wild, complete with knocking down trees, throwing each other through the air, and then jumping into a huge pile to sleep. Later on they play “War” and throw dirt clods at each other. Except the Wild Things are throwing dirt clods the size of a small car it seems from all the explosions around them as they run. Those scenes also helped add to the dread and uneasiness for Max. Seeing a real kid doing this stuff instead of a computer animated or cartoon kid was strange. Trees falling, creatures tearing things up, dirt explosions, and the weather during the sailing are all very dangerous. The whole time I was hoping Max wouldn’t get hurt, or waiting for when he did. Maybe that’s my own fault, watching horror and action movies I’ve begun to anticipate what comes next. There is the same set up, but never the same outcome.

So was Where the Wild Things Are a good movie? I won’t say it was good and I won’t say it was bad. Don’t go into expecting something extravagant, the hype and praise this movie got leading up to its release does not match the final product.

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