Redefining the adaptation
Where the Wild Things Are, one of the most beloved children's books,
comes to the big screen in one of the most highly anticipated films of
the year. Spike Jonze, the man responsible for Being John Malcovich,
Adaptation, and several Beastie Boys music videos including "Sabotage",
brings the tale to life. I must admit, I have been anxiously awaiting
this film for several months, something I don't like to do too often as
it sets up for a potential major let down.
Well, that didn't happen this time.
We follow Max (Max Records), a boy who is lonely and misunderstood. His
sister doesn't pay attention to him, his mother is busy with work and
her boyfriend, and he has worries at school. All he wants is attention
and to belong. One night, he finally breaks and runs away. He makes his
way to the woods and to the waters edge. There he finds a small boat
and set out on the open sea, leaving everything behind him.
He comes across an island and goes ashore. There he finds a group of
monsters in turmoil. Max seizes his opportunity and confronts the
group. He tells them that he is a great king and help them solve their
I don't want to give too much of the story away because I feel like
telling it would ruin some of the magic. This is one of the most
visually pleasing films I have seen in a long time. Jonze filmed in
Australia. We are given vivid landscapes of lush forests, arid deserts,
and beautiful shorelines, culminating in an almost Lord of the Rings
like experience. These spectacular settings would rarely be beaten in
magnificence in another film, but here they come second to the
unbelievable special effects used for the monsters.
There are seven monsters on the island. Carol, Ira, Judith, KW,
Douglas, Alexander, and The Bull. They all have unique features and are
of massive size. Jonze could have gone two ways here. He could have
completely made them all CG or he could have gone Jim Henson and turned
them into Muppets. Instead, he carved a third path and combined the
other two options. Max is able to interact extremely well with the
gigantic puppet/suits, but the faces are edited with computer graphics,
giving them startlingly realistic features and expressions. Making
these monsters any different way would have been disastrous.
Another key aspect of the monsters is giving them a voice. Jonze chose
excellent voice actors with James Gandolfini, Forrest Whitaker,
Catherine O'Hara, Lauren Ambrose, Paul Dano, and Chris Cooper. They
each have their own personality that compliments their physical and
Aside from the monsters, I was very impressed with Max. He is asked to
do a very demanding thing: be a kid. That sounds easy, but it is very
easily messed up. I'm interested in finding out how much freedom Jonze
gave Records in certain scenes that called for him to go "wild". I can
imagine directing young actors is not the easiest thing to do, but
sometimes you catch a break when you get a talented one.
Giving life to these characters is a spectacular screenplay by Jonze
and Dave Eggers (who wrote Away We Go). Their writing speaks to both
kids and adults, using language that is meaningful and easy to
understand. The things Max goes through every child feels growing up:
loneliness, fear, belonging, etc.
There is so much to love about this movie. It speaks to the heart. But
before you head out with the whole family, heed this warning. Some
parts of this film might be too intense for younger audience members.
Certain scene involving the monsters might be a bit too overwhelming.
Yes, these monsters are friendly, but they are monsters, meaning they
are large, intimidating, and somewhat scary.
Where the Wild Things Are will satisfy, entertain, and open your eyes.
Spike Jonze poured everything he had into this film and the wait was
well worth it. I hope you will fall under its spell just as I did..
barrybarnowl watch The Talk Of The Town movie
pbrown70 watch The AristoCats movie
An absolutely beautiful adaptation of a classic children's book. It broke my heart and then put it back together again. Visually stunning and well acted. I wanted to watch it again as soon as it was over. .
LizzCruzz watch Hooking Up movie
LizzCruzz watch All Or Nothing movie
sarrrrhbear watch Rise Of The Gargoyles movie
Great book. Great movie!.
nice movie get it.
this movie is amazing..i want to watch it.
the book was a hit and the movie is also very cool.
i made my daughter the outfit of king max. love the books. what kid didn't.
really loved this book as a kid..
The phrase 'a picture is worth a thousand words' has rarely felt so fitting
This adaptation of Maurice Sendak's children's book expands on the
story of Max (Max Records), a naughty and imaginative boy who escapes
the punishment of his mother (Catherine Keener) by journeying to a
fantasy land. In this version Max's parents are separated and he does
not get along with his sister. One night when his mother's boyfriend is
over for dinner Max causes a huge ruckus and ends up biting his mother
on the shoulder. He runs out into the darkness of the neighbourhood and
transports himself by boat to an imaginary island. Surviving the rough
seas, he eventually meets a number of giant furry creatures. They are
initially very hostile towards him but he quickly convinces them that
he is a king with magical powers and they are awed by his presence. The
friendliest to Max is Carol (James Gandolfini) but Max soon learns that
Carol and the other creatures have their own disrupted relationships.
The opening frames to Spike Jonze's Where The Wild Things Are suggest a
much darker and almost grittier tone than one might initially expect
for this adaptation. The rapid tracking shots of Max screaming wildly
as he chases his pet with a fork in his mouth is indicative of the
harsh realism consistently displayed throughout a number of the house
scenes early in the film. Even throughout his most fantastical films,
like Adaptation and Being John Malkovich, Jonze has crafted a sense of
humanity and this film is no different. While one can respect Jonze for
the level of maturity that he brings to much of the new material
though, this is still an adaptation of a children's picture book. The
dark tone that he sets for these early scenes could be slightly
overwhelming for much smaller children.
The expansion of the original story has meant that many new details and
insights to both Max and the monsters have been included. The film
notes that Max's parents have been separated and briefly touches on his
uneven relationship with his sister. The monsters themselves are all
personalised as well, with their own habits and flaws, some of which
echo Max's own traits. Carol regularly smashes things when he gets
angry, while a goat-like creature named Alexander complains that he is
regularly ignored by everyone. There are a number of unresolved
relationships throughout the film, leaving the middle section rather
loose, including an ambiguous conflict Carol has with two owls and his
relationship with one of the other monsters. Despite many of these new
elements and the expanded characterisation, the film amounts to largely
the same message as Sendak's book: that there are more problems to be
found in running away and a realisation of belonging. Though some will
argue that the film upholds the essence of the story, Sendak's book
said as much in the very simplest form. The drawings of his book are
simple yet immediate enough to spark the imagination for young readers
to immerse themselves, like Max, into the world, instead of having it
entirely visualised for them. Perhaps this is what has allowed the book
to endure over the years. The phrase 'a picture is worth a thousand
words' has rarely felt so fitting.
Regardless of its shortcoming, the film benefits from a stellar cast of
actors and voice talent who bring these characters to life. Max Records
is particularly natural as the young boy and the emotion he shows at
the beginning of the film is utterly convincing. James Gandolfini a
talented actor is also strong really embodying this massive furry
creature who shifts thoroughly in emotions from sheer anger to warmth
for this child. The monsters were made from costumes as opposed to pure
CGI meaning that all the actors voicing the creatures had to wear these
mammoth suits. It is a unique and rather nostalgic idea given so many
of the visual effects bound films today and also because many of the
costumes have been aptly modelled towards the drawings in Sendak's
story. The film, which was mostly shot in Australia, is also
particularly beautiful through the photography of the woodlands and the
Where The Wild Things Are has a number of strong qualities,
particularly in its aesthetics and its costume design, but one has to
question precisely who this film was aimed at and what was to be
achieved through its visualisation. Though it expands thoroughly upon
the characters of the story and achieves a darker tone, it seems as
though the overall message of the original story is being repeated, no
matter how seriously Jonze would like the audience to invest in these
creatures and their social problems. Many may have longed to have
Sendak's world visualised for them, but perhaps the original intent of
the picture book should have been felt in leaving this world to the
imagination of its young readers..