Huzzah, last of the 2009 film catch up – can then start on 2010…
I’ll be perfectly honest up front and say that more than any other film in late 2009, Where The Wild Things Are was the one that I was anticipating the most. It wasn’t childhood nostalgia that had gotten to me, but rather the fact that it looked as if it was going to be the most interesting looking film for a long time (Avatar included). What caught me by surprise was the fact that this isn’t just a kids film, but a film aimed at reminding everyone what it felt like to be a kid – and everything that it entailed.
The majority of the credit must go to Max Records as the hero of the film who manages to give on of the most naturalistic performances by anyone for years. Whether the director (Spike Jonze) just shot take after take until he had the performance he wanted (the long gestation time would suggest that he was doing something unusual given the slender running time) it juts feels wonderful, moving from the fun of dirt fights to the loneliness of losing your best friend – none of it ever feels forced.
The film deviates a little from the book, but that would be difficult not to do when the source material runs to barely twenty pages. The expansions instead feel like an extension of the moods and themes of the books rather than an attempt to bolster a slim plot (it’s still a slim plot, but it’s meaning lies elsewhere). Asking for an accurate adaptation would be an exercise in madness, the film would not be able to sustain the interest the way it does.
These deviations however remove it from its target audience – the Wild Things, whilst playful remain a fearful presence capable of ending max’s life at any time (although he could end theirs as well if he just thinks about it) making it a film a little too emotionally raw for very young children. Older children (and adults) will love it because you can remember that everything does get better in the end.
Away from the emotional side of the film, it all looks wonderfully natural despite the vast process required to realise the film. The Wild Things are a mixture of full scale puppets and CGI enhancement and actually give performances. How much of the facial movements was done post-film with CGI is unknown, but each movement is beautifully realised.
The soundtrack is also worth a mention, moving from upbeat pop fun through to more introspective pieces in an instant to match what is happening. The songs are all originals written for the film which makes a welcome change from normal film soundtracks.
Where The Wild Things Are has much to recommend it but, be warned, a large box of tissues may be needed come the end if you get too caught up in it.