Into The Wild: Book And Movie Comparison

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Most people expect to see the best parts of a what they read when they go to see a movie that is based upon a book, but most of the time “The book is better than the movie” and this is precisely what happened with Into the Wild. The movie’s theme correlates with the book but the way it is presented is quite different than the book. The book Into The Wild, is a travel essay written by Jon Krakauer. It is essentially about a young suburban man from a wealthy family who hitched hiked to Alaska without informing his family. He was Christopher Johnson McCandless, a fine man but stubborn with his own idealism. He disappeared immediately after graduating from college with honors on the summer of 1990, donated his grad school fund of $24,000 to Oxfam, abandoned his car and belongings, burnt all the cash and identity, changed his name into Alexander Supertramp and started wandering across Northern California. He worked in several places, made new friends, and lived where people welcomed him. Finally he reaches Alaska, his dreamland. He was found by moose hunters dead in the bus 142. He was very much influenced by Leo Tolstoy who gave up his wealth and wandered into woods. He actually avoided his parents and the social surrounding but unfortunately he died lack of topographic map, flooding in the river and eating the moldy seeds. Krakauer portrays Chris as a gloomy, grudge-holding, very unlike the happy wanderer of the film. The movie excluded essential parts from the book and concentrates on Chris’s quest. It focuses more on Chris being adventurous, friendly, warm yet resentful towards his parents while Krakauer shows other side of Chris.

However, the movie directed by Sean Penn was based on the book which was Chris’s life between college graduation and death; it focused on his idealism and his adventures more. The unimportant parts were more elaborated and didn’t go along with the sequence. In some instances it was not even essential to show how the teenager was so infatuated by Chris in the movie because Krakuer barely mentioned. It was same with the two German couple in the book it was written that he got a ride from them whereas in the movie, they advised Chris on how to go to Mexico. The book was told in various medium, multiple interviews, journals whereas Chris’s sister Carine narrates most of the time in the movie although she didn’t know anything about his journey to wilderness in the book, she didn’t have any contact with him after he left home.

People who have not read the book and watched the movie, it was more about Chris’s desire to go to Alaska because he was angry with his parents and was in search for truth but there was more to it in the book. According to Gaylord Stucky, “He said it was something he’d wanted to do since he was little, he didn’t want to see a single person, no airplanes, no sign of civilization……” The plot would have been different if this would have been mentioned in the movie but nothing of the sort was brought up. It was understood that his resentment towards his parents and their past made him decide to go in the movie. In the book too it was stated that he was withdrawn towards his parents, he was angry with them. According to Billie, “He seemed mad at us more often, and he became more withdrawn –no, that’s not the right word. Chris wasn’t ever withdrawn. But he wouldn’t tell us what was on his mind and spent more time by himself.” Two summers ago Chris had found that even after he was born his dad Walt had continued with his previous wife and both had a child who was born two years younger than him. His dad was having two relationships together. That infuriated Chris but never confronted his parents. “Rather than love, the money, the fame, give me truth. I sat at a table where were rich food and wine in abundance, an obsequious attendance, but sincerity and truth…… ”The Passage from the book Walden by Henry David Thoreau was highlighted was found with the remains of Chris’s collection. He was made him very upset that his parents kept him in dark and didn’t tell the truth. However in the movie, this plot was shown when he was recalling the graduation ceremony and thinking about his parent’s graduation when he was in Alaska while he was writing on the plywood. The resentment was shown but the plot was presented in different sequence.

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The book informs a lot about his early childhood when he was very talented, competitive, compassionate, and a good entrepreneur. Chris was a high achiever in almost everything and brought A’s with little effort in his high school likewise in college he wrote intense editorials on variety of subjects. Both Carine and Chris played musical instrument, he was a gifted French horn player but when Carine got a place as first chair in the senior band, Chris quit playing. There was musical rivalry between them but they were really best friends. When all his friends were having fun in high school Chris would go and help homeless people by chatting with them and buying meals. “Chris didn’t understand how people could possibly be allowed to go hungry, especially in this country,” Billie said. That shows how compassionate and helpful he was. “Chris was always an entrepreneur,” Billie says with laughter. When he was very young he sold fresh vegetables door to door pulling the wagon, had a copy business in the neighborhood. He had a skill of a businessman but he never considered, he was busy dreaming about his idealism and trying to make his dream come true. However the movie leaves all his childhood milestones. It starts with graduation but didn’t show his past. It just portrayed Chris as an adventurous college grad who didn’t want to think about anything but himself.

There was no doubt that Penn was praising Chris. In the book, he’s impatient, selfish and caught up in a dream of idealism. Krakuer mentioned in Author’s note that Chris was intense young man and possessed a streak of stubborn idealism that did not mesh with modern existence. In the film, he’s gentler, cheerful and friendly, wandering the earth and spreading wisdom. There’s a sort of ironic humor to just about everything he does. Penn was telling Chris’s story from Chris’s perspective. He was out living the dream of freedom. The people who stand in his way were bad people. As for Chris urban areas are harsh, crazy, dangerous places and he avoids immediately and he feels he does not fit in those places.

In addition to that there were a great many detailed similarities between the movie and the book. The movie exaggerated a lot of scenes between Chris and his acquaintances along the road but materials shown regarding Chris’s life between his college graduation and death was moreover the same as in the book. The manner is different but the facts are more or less equal, the portions such as finding of bus, killing the moose, his odd jobs, the relationship with Jan Burres, Ronald Franz and Wayne Westerberg. In both presentations his death was an act of poor judgment.

In the end, Penn tried to make the movie more positive than negative by eliminating the dark sides from the book but as a reader I felt movie would have been better if Penn added some important details which would have satisfied readers like me and would say the movie is excellent. He was showing the adventurous journey of Chris which was one of the causes of his resentment towards his parents but was not able to execute Krakuer’s deeper meaning of the book and his perspective of the wild. People should not take idealism too far because then one can only harm oneself and in the wilderness like Alaska there is no return back if one does not have reality check.

Works Cited

  1. Into the Wild. Dir. Sean Penn. Paramount Vintage. 2007.
  2. Krakauer Jon. Into the Wild. New York: Anchor Book, February 1997. Print.
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Into The Wild: Book And Movie Comparison. (2022, February 17). Edubirdie. Retrieved May 19, 2024, from
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