‘Into the Wild’: Sean Penn Adapts Jon Krakauer’s Book for the Big Screen
Travel Blog • Michael Yessis • 07.20.07 | 10:26 AM ET
Sean Penn lined up some impressive talent for his adaptation of Jon Krakauer’s beloved book Into the Wild, the story of twentysomething Christopher McCandless’s self-imposed exile from mainstream society and tragic journey into the Alaskan wilds. Penn wrote and directed the film, which stars Emile Hirsch, Vince Vaughn, Catherine Keener, Zach Galifianakis, William Hurt and others. Eddie Vedder and Gustavo Santaolalla contribute to the soundtrack. The movie opens Sept. 21, and already I’m getting that dueling “I can’t wait to see it/I can’t believe what an awful idea this is” feeling of seeing a favorite book get turned into a movie.
After watching the trailer, I’m cautiously pessimistic. Krakauer’s diligent, thoughtful telling of McCandless’s travels, his turning his back on his family and the path that led him to his death near Alaska’s Denali National Park seems to have gained a layer of Hollywood slickness. See for yourself:
I’ll overlook it as part of the marketing of the movie.
One obstacle I think might be difficult to overcome, though, is the lack of Krakauer’s voice. One of the elements that made “Into the Wild” powerful to me was the presence of Krakauer himself. In the book, he recounts his own reckless man-against-nature adventure climbing Devil’s Thumb on the Alaska/British Columbia border. Krakauer, of course, survived, but the perspective he gained from the experience informs the book and helps the reader see McCandless as more than a snotty kid in over his head.
I hope Penn was able to bottle some of Krakauer’s sympathetic perspective. I’ve read “Into the Wild” twice—once on a trip to Denali a few years back—and, despite my pessimism, I’m rooting for him and the film to succeed. McCandless’s story and the questions it raises deserve the wide audience a major motion picture involving Oscar winners and rock stars can bring in.
Related on World Hum:
* Outside’s Top 25 Adventure Books
* Travelers Who Come Down With Hypothermia or Whose Ship Crashes Into an Iceberg Will Pay a Surcharge
* The Critics: ‘The Happiest Man in the World’ by Alec Wilkinson