In October 2007, I went to the movie “Into the Wild” by Sean Penn. I also saw Oprah’s blurb (I needed coercing to do this) about the movie.
Many years before, probably in 1997, I read Jon Krakauer’s book of the same title that the movie is based on.
The book was a phenomenal read, my first Krakauer book other than some of this stories on climbing in Outside magazine and other collections. I was stunned by how well he had researched the book, how meticulously he must have worked to put this story together after the fact. Krakauer earned my respect then as an outstanding investigative journalist. I remember loaning the book to several friends over the years, and it’s now tattered and stained.
Krakauer later came through with “Into Thin Air” and then “Under the Banner of Heaven,” both also outstanding works of journalism.
On the Oprah show, Sean Penn was lifted up as brilliant for this work. It was a good movie, well done and entertaining. But to me, it did not much more than cause me to go back to the book self, find the old copy, and thumb through it again. As always with movies based on books, the movie does not do the book justice in any way, and it certainly does not do Chris McCandles, the protagonist, sufficient justice. Krakauer should get much more credit for this story than Penn, but unfortunately, Penn will reach a much larger audience in this society. Chris would have been dismayed.
So, given that there is now a movie and a book, I recommend that you go see the movie (it’s worth it) but then you have to read the book to fully appreciate the story.
Was Chris a hero? No, Chris was a fool, but a very inspiring one. I admire him and one I would have liked to know him. Too bad he was just a bit too reckless.