Movie Review – The Call of The Wild – Inconsistent in its flow!
My Rating 3 out of 5
Plot Summary – The Call of The Wild
Jack London’s timeless epic The Call of the Wild – first published in 1903, has been again adapted for the screen. The result is rather sad as the film is not consistent in its pace, brilliant in poignancy one moment to being pedestrian in others. Even an actor of the caliber of Harrison Ford, as narrator and the reclusive John Thornton, cannot rescue this to reach any glorious height. This is where director Chris Sander’s acumen comes into question, his treatment of this fine story comes up short of expectations.
The hero of the book/movie is Buck, a part Saint Bernard and part Scotch Shepard/Collie dog who is the favoured pet of a Judge in California. He is the spoilt brat of the family, more like the favourite child who never gets scolded for all the naughty things he/she does, except being mildly reprimanded, which is instantly ignored. Buck has the run of the mansion, eating whatever he chooses and from whomever he chooses. At a picnic on the grounds, he happily raids the food table, long before anyone can eat! Maids scurry to keep exotic Artefacts off his route, as Buck royally stumbles around in his ‘Kingdom’
“He was less attentive to his master’s commands than to his own instincts”Narrator
Then one night, when he’s left out on the porch for his mischievousness, Buck gets kidnapped by thugs who sell him off to Gold prospectors of the Alaskan Yukon. His initial handler beats him into submission but once in Yukon, he gets sold to the US Mail guys, who need him to be a part of their Dogsled team. From sunny California to the frozen lands of the Yukon, Buck is now in a world he’s never encountered before.
Snow beneath his feet, throwaways for food and being part of a team where his importance is close to zero. Poor fellow is distraught till he finds sympathy from the sledding couple – Perrault (Omar Sy) with the thick French accent and Francoise (Cara Gee). When he saves Francoise from certain death, his bond with the couple gets clad in iron. A territorial fight with the lead dog of the pack later, Buck, rather unwillingly at first, assumes leadership of the pack and with new found zeal, they start delivering mail on time!
Perault : “See Buck? We don’t carry mail, we carry lives. We carry hope, we carry love….”Perault to Buck
But this new found euphoric phase is not meant to last, as Buck is ripped away from the Dogsled team when the mail trip is cancelled. His new owners are a city trio turned to Gold digging – Hal (Dan Stevens), his sister Mercedes (Karen Gillan) and her husband. They treat the dogs badly and before Buck is tormented further, he’s rescued by the reclusive John Thornton – a loner who prefers to sink his grief of losing his son into the contents of a bottle.
Finally, Buck, mollycoddled by the trappings of civilization, faces the harsh challenges of nature and the evil of some men who’ve bought him and responds to the Call of the Wild! The loner in John takes care of him, possibly replacing his lost son with Buck. John discusses and plans an adventure with Buck, one which his son Tim spoke of. As they set off on that journey, Buck is close to breaking off his last few ties to human civilisation, as he’s known it since his birth.
The duo head up the Yukon, and later Buck comes across and befriends a pack of wolves and is even amorously attracted to a white one, a Timber Wolf as Jack would tell us. With the wolves, Buck rediscovers his natural animal self, bit by bit, how to hunt or forage for food and look out for each other in a pack. He, finally, listens and responds to ‘The Call of the Wild’!
Nature, in her infinite wisdom, has chosen a way of life for all her creations and even decided where those lives should intersect. But man, in his greed for power, has overturned many of those tenets. Here, the overwhelming message is to give in to Nature’s diktats, and each revert back to his own natural habitat.
John Thornton: [narrates] There’s a place in these mountains where a new breed of timber wolf roams, wiser than men or wolf, because of the dog that runs at the head of a pack. Now… they live without fear, raise their young and flourish.From The Call of the Wild
Conclusion – The Call of The Wild
It is a sweeping story with an underlying message which is timeless, but the Director’s shortcomings prevent it from becoming a runaway hit. Buck is so evidently a product of CGI, that he looks unnatural at times. Excellent cinematography, breathtaking vistas coupled with the charming presence of Harrison Ford fail to make up for the lack of consistency in the flow of the movie. Some very poignant moments are bracketed by pretty ordinary passages of play. All in all, a decent one time watch, just don’t have any lofty expectations of this one.