Round Two: JDub on WHayes on "Where the Wild Things Are"

Posted 4/23/2010 by JDub in Labels: , , , ,
Spike Jonze's "Where the Wild Things Are" absolutely does have that unfinished feel WHayes talks about, but I am going to have to disagree on the hipster moodiness argument because, well, the film almost embodies the indie hipster melancholy. Even moments of pure happiness and joy are still seen through that brooding, earthy color palete and they're further tainted by the nagging sense that no happiness, joy, or love can come without the price of a corresponding amount of unhappiness, pain, and hate.

A friend of mine suggests that Jonze, instead of adapting a children's book into a film, has actually created an adult version of a children's' book in this case, and I tend to agree. If children's books are allegorical in nature, then it seems like Jonze has forced Max to face a literal version of the book's allegory in the film. For me, this attempt was unsuccessful because not only did Max have trouble understanding the conflict around him, but I--as an adult--did too.

Jonze's "Where the Wild Things Are" suffers in its lack of depth, development, and explanation. I don't get the sense that Max has changed at all, except to discover that his childhood notion of being a king is certainly not all its cracked up to be. Kids these days are "growing up" faster than ever before, and this is perhaps part of the difficulty in bringing "Where the Wild Things Are" to the big screen in this day and age.

The book was published first in 1963, a time when it was still alright for kids to be kids. Honestly, the original story was about as shallow as they come: a simple escape into the imagination for an uninhibited romp with big fluffy beasties. Obviously a shallow story in the book does not cause an incomplete story in the film, but it is immediately apparent to anyone familiar with the book where the original story ends and the new one begins. A lot has had to be added to force the story to fit inside the moody indie hipster film box, and I think even more should have been added.

Again, I agree that Jonze deserves credit for a pretty amazing piece of cinema. It's certainly cohesive, as WHayes points out the integration of live-action and CGI is flawless, the music is solid, and the acting is good. But, after having looked forward to the film from the moment I knew it would be happening, I honestly did not enjoy the final product. The journey across the ocean to the island of the Wild Things is meant to be an escape from the adult world, but I don't agree with WHayes that it ever feels remotely like a fairytale: to me, it feels like Max was never able to imagine away the adult world at all.

Where's the idealism without resistance or hesitation? Where the hell is all the drama between the Wild Things really coming from? What's the fun in watching a failed attempt at escapism? And, what kid's imagination would come up with all of that stuff, anyway?

The feeling in my gut is that Jonze's film is showing a world in which there really is no such thing as childhood (and parents who think the film is too scary for kids can just go to Hell according to Sendak), but I sincerely hope this world never exists.

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