“How to Train Your Dragon” director Chris Sanders is filming the Jack London book CALL OF THE WILD his first live-action film, but he can’t quite get out of his skin yet. We’ll reveal in our review whether it’s good for the film that all the animals in it are animated.
Mercedes (Karen Gillan) overestimates the thickness of the ice…
The plot summary
Buck’s happy dog life is turned upside down when he is torn from his home in California and suddenly finds himself in the strange wilderness of Alaska during the gold rush. He is put into a pack of postal sled dogs and has to assert himself here first. After Buck refuses a dangerous order, he is critically injured. Luckily, John Thornton (Harrison Ford) finds him, who picks Buck up and nurses him back to health. The two become inseparable friends and Buck begins the adventure of his life until he finally finds his true place in the world.
The Call of the Wild Movie Meaning of ending
It is significant that two films in which a dog plays the main role are released in a single German cinema release week. On the one hand, with regard to the negligent planning of the rental company; It must have escaped someone’s attention that “The Call of the Wild” and “Lassie: A Journey of Adventure” could cannibalize each other. However, if both parties have thought about this, this parallel release date placement could also show that they know exactly that the target group of the two films should (actually!) not overlap. After all, “Lassie” is a classic children’s and family adventure that is released for ages 0 and up, while “Call of the Wild” is based on the world-famous novel by the American writer Jack London, whose works, from “Wolfsblut” to “The Sea Wolf”, yes were actually not known for being particularly child-friendly. No matter that, like in “The Call of the Wild,” a dog is at the center of the story. In view of the finished film, only the quintessence of the original novel remains – a four-legged friend on a foray through the rough wilderness of Alaska during the gold rush. The now ninth (!) film adaptation since 1935 is by far the tamest, which is not least due to the fact that the animals – from dogs to reindeer – were all created entirely on the computer and were given such human facial expressions that you are actually just waiting for them. that they will talk to each other in the next moment. Why “The Call of the Wild” wasn’t directly adapted as an animated film is a mystery.
A new life begins for Buck as the dog of a sleigh-driving postman (Omar Sy).
Director Chris Sanders made a name for himself with animated films such as “Lilo & Stitch” and “How to Train Your Dragon”. After a total of three forays into animation, he is now presenting his first live-action film, “Call of the Wild,” in which he can once again incorporate his knowledge from this segment. All of the animals in “Call of the Wild” were created on the computer. And that’s not all: Where other filmmakers and studios strive to make CGI animals look more realistic and lifelike from film to film, until – as in the case of Jon Favreau’s ” The Lion King” – they no longer resemble their real counterparts can be distinguished, the team behind “Call of the Wild” relies particularly on trivialization. Above all, the furry protagonist Buckley has an almost human facial expression with which he reacts to his surroundings. Affection, anger and disgust are written all over his face, as are much more complex emotions. And that’s exactly what seems strange. Because in the realistic, harsh setting of Alaska during the gold rush, it sometimes seems simply silly when a dog that actually fits into the setting credibly appears to be gloating or defiant. Here the demand for a prevailing realism (which, in keeping with Jack London’s works, is always accompanied by a certain physical harshness) clashes with cartoon-esque trick elements, until the last step is actually just that the animals in “Call of the Wilderness” would be possible to communicate with each other in human language. To be honest, you don’t need that at all: the four-legged friends’ facial expressions are so pronounced that you can understand what they have to “say” to each other even without words.
Now one has to give “Call of the Wild” credit for not having to face the accusation that “The Lion King” is often accused of lacking emotionality. As unusual and inappropriately belittling as the human animal facial expressions seem, over the course of the film they also help to make you root for Buck’s fate. Especially from the appearance of Hermit John, thanks to Harrison Ford’s authentic acting (“Blade Runner 2049”), a believable chemistry develops between real people and fake dogs; something that was recently seen in “The Fantastic Journey of Dr. “Dolittle” didn’t even come up because it wasn’t yet clear on the set where the animated animals would later be seen in the picture. In “Call of the Wild,” on the other hand, the actors are always actively playing the animals that were added in post-production. So the illusion of human-dog friendship actually works. Especially because some really touching scenes made it into the film, for example with a Buck watching his master’s alcohol consumption. In this case, touching does not necessarily mean child-friendly. Because if you imagine a family-friendly adventure film based on the description so far, Chris Sanders spoils such an experience with some very rough moments. Against a particularly dark backdrop, human violence against animals as well as violence among the animals themselves takes place here. And the enemy’s swan song is also celebrated here in a remarkably nihilistic way, so that “Call of the Wild” is probably best described as a “dog film for adults” (or at least not very young viewers) should go through.
Until then, however, Chris Sanders treats his audience to grand adventure cinema that Oscar-winning cameraman Janusz Kaminski (for “Schindler’s List” and “Saving Private Ryan”) captures in completely intoxicating panoramas. If Omar Sy (“Suddenly Dad”) In the role of a postman driving sled dogs, he races through the snow-covered Alaskan landscape, one can hardly get enough of the awe-inspiring nature around him; at least until the approaching avalanche becomes too obvious to be a product of the computer. And the gold prospector valley, reminiscent of the Tom Waits episode in “The Ballad of Buster Scruggs”, in which John and Buck look for the precious metal, is already one of the most spectacular set pieces of the 2020 cinema year. Screenwriter Michael Green takes the liberty of doing this (“Murder on the Orient Express”) always humor; For example, when John isn’t looking and his loyal four-legged friend fishes a huge lump of gold out of the stream, but drops it again when his master pays him no attention. Here the form of the slightly exaggerated live-action film about a close human-animal friendship comes together harmoniously with the stylistic devices of the dog animation used here. But in the next moment the shooting villain is on the mat again and you don’t really know whether this is supposed to be a light-hearted adventure comedy or just rough adult cinema in which a particularly clumsy dog just happens to find himself cheated in.
Conclusion: Much better than expected but still too indecisive to be really good: “Call of the Wild” is too childlike for an adult Jack London audience and too dark for children. However, that doesn’t mean that the friendship between the fully animated four-legged friend and the beard-wearing Harrison Ford doesn’t always touch your heart.
“Call of the Wild” can be seen in USA cinemas from February 20th.