Since our feature presentation was largely focused on Alaska, Katie and Jason decided to bring us an Alaska-themed short – of the type you’d never really expect.
It’s nothing more than an unintentionally-released internet search history of one very…unusual…web surfer. Apparently not from Alaska. As read out by a computerized voice: “Pimple that gets whitehead on it and never goes away”. And quite a bit more, some of which is not exactly safe for work. Oh, and apparently there are 12 more where this one came from. Yikes! (I think maybe I’ll listen to the series while writing the remainder of this review. Please ignore any spittakes.) (Oh, apparently it was NOT computerized. It was just read by a Majel Barrett Roddenberry clone.)
But in the meantime, we really ought to get to the feature presentation: Into the Wild, an adaptation of Jon Krakauer’s non-fiction book directed by Sean Penn. Before I get started, I ought to point out that some of the material in this non-fiction book is, shall we say, disputed. As in all books of this sort, it’s somewhat of a hagiography, and the protagonist, as it were, is portrayed in a quite idealistic light, while some of the folks who saw him off into the wild would say that he was merely stupid. As it is, I’m going to review the movie without trying to focus on which aspects are overfictionalized or overdramatized. On to the movie:
Sorry, wrong movie. Let me try that again.
And while I don’t feel bad about giving away the ending (remember the warning on the main page – that all of these reviews are spoilerific) I’m going a bit farther than the film. Although it is in itself non-linear and begins near the end, the ultimate demise of our protagonist was not given away – perhaps to the surprise of some when it finally arrived. Look, just don’t expect a happy ending for this movie, OK?
“This man” is (an actor’s portrayal of) Chris McCandless, or, as he rechristened himself during his search for enlightenment, Alexander Supertramp. McCandless was the son of reasonably well-to-do parents in Virginia and, before his odyssey, a recent graduate of Emory University who was considering applying to Harvard Law.
Unfortunately for Chris, it does appear that his family life was less than perfect, with constant violent arguments between his parents and the pervading belief that money solves everything and acts as an adequate substitute for love. He only seems to care for his younger sister. But at a dinner after his graduation, he is set off by his parents and their materialism, partially because they offer to buy him a new car when he’s perfectly happy with his old one. In a rejection of everything they stand for, he donates his $24,000 college fund to charity and heads off west in his car, with little apparent destination. Oh, and he doesn’t tell anybody, either.
He loses his car in a flash flood in Arizona, burns the remainder of his money, and heads off on a journey of self-discovery with little more than the pack on his back.
Along the way, he meets several people whom the film focuses on. The first is a tramp couple named Rainey and Jan. Rainey is a Dude-Lebowski-esque character, while Jan is the emotional wreck of the couple. They hang for a bit on the Pacific coast (looked like Northern California, but could have been Oregon), Supertramp gives them some relationship advice, and they tell him about their trailer park out in the Palm Desert, inviting him to join them anytime.
In the meantime, Supertramp heads out to South Dakota and ends up working in a grain silo for Vince Vaughn. He seems like a really nice guy, but he ends up getting arrested by the feds for satellite piracy. This, of course, makes no sense at all, because as best we can tell from the movie, the Feds sent out about 8 cars with sirens a-blazing and guns hot to pick up a guy in the middle of South Dakota who had made an illegal satellite TV receiver out of some cheap electronics and tin foil. Yeah, one illegal receiver, as far as the movie seemed to indicate. Look, even the federal government isn’t THAT wasteful. So I guess I’m saying “questionable plot point”.
With his grain silo employment now halted, Supertramp heads out to kayak the Colorado River. When he finds out he’ll have to wait years to get a permit, he just plain goes. The river police eventually chase after him, those bad people who don’t want ordinary hobos to enjoy nature! But he gets away, and aside from hitching a ride around the Hoover Dam, he kayaks all the way to Mexico, where his Kayak is eventually lost in a dust storm. From there he makes his way back to the U.S. (no mean feat given he has no ID). The streets of Los Angeles nearly convince him to give up his vagabond, anywhere-I-lay-my-hat-is-home lifestyle, but when he imagines himself as a businessman, he gives up that idea really quick and instead makes his way to Rainey and Jan’s place.
There he meets a hot underage homeless guitar player who desperately wants to have sex with him. He refuses because she’s underage. Yeah right.
Anyway, by this point in time he has fully committed himself to a half-baked plan to go out into the wilderness in Alaska, and after earning a bit of money, he leaves the hottie and his buddies Rainey and Jan.
But instead of heading off immediately, for some reason he hooks up with a creepy old guy who you’re convinced is looking for some sexual encounters, but really turns out to be just a lonely guy who makes stuff out of leather. So, you know, completely straight apparently. But just like the others, Supertramp eventually leaves him too so he can go to Alaska, and finally, he gets there. Apparently the whole hitchhiking through the Yukon Territory bit was a little rough, but he got there.
And so Supertramp headed out with 10 pounds of rice and no freaking idea where he was going. It was early May, the snow was still on the ground, and after an easy river crossing, he found what he referred to as “the magic bus” – which had been fitted out with a stove and a bed and for some reason abandoned in the wilderness – where he stayed.
Of course, his food eventually starts to run out, and after eating a few squirrels he manages to kill a moose, only to have its flesh infested by maggots before he can properly smoke it. The meat is ruined, and he decides that maybe, just maybe, he ought to head back and hook up with the hot chick in Palm Desert, because she’s probably of age now. Unfortunately, in the summer he can’t make the river crossing (apparently he was only 3/4 of a mile from a tram crossing, but since he didn’t KNOW WHERE HE WAS GOING…) so he headed back to the bus and began the slow process of starving to death.
He had a book detailing edible plants, and in his hunger he used it – and then became sick. Some two weeks later he died of starvation, having spent about 100 days at the magic bus. He was found by some hunters about two weeks after he died, because the bus really wasn’t very far from a major hunting trail. Probably a good thing to know when you’re STARVING TO DEATH.
But hey, his was a journey of enlightenment, you know, and those don’t come without ravages to the body and soul. Well, dumb as you were, R.I.P., Chris.