Updated: Sep 22, 2021
Adventure comes in many forms. Concepts such as grand scale journeys and personal quests are the backbone of storytelling and it continues to be effective for the adventure film genre. In this case the latest adventure to hit the silver screen is one that deals with a dog’s odyssey throughout the wilderness; which many may know as The Call of the Wild. The Call of the Wild is based on the acclaimed novel by Jack London and has been depicted on several occasions. The latest rendition is directed by Chris Sanders and brings the story to life in a live action film that is heavy on visual effects. The trailer teased an adventurous movie but it also appeared to be a journey that was a little too straightforward for my liking. After seeing it for myself I can say this adaptation falls under the saying of “what you see is what you get”, but in this case that was not a bad thing.
The story centers Buck: a rambunctious dog who finds himself on an adventure after he is abducted from his home. This unexpected journey takes Buck to Alaska where he becomes a member of a sled team and eventually befriends the reclusive Johnathan Thornton (Harrison Ford). The plot of this adaptation was certainly adventurous. It was not difficult to get this into story as its simplistic nature was complimented by its adequate pace. Yet the plot’s sense of adventure had its limits. Once Buck and John embark on their journey, the plot came to a standstill with Buck’s personal quest losing much of its development. There may not have been much to it but the plot’s execution made all the difference as its stellar delivery turned this tale into an enthusiastic adventure.
Along with its simplistic storytelling the movie also featured a fairly simple cast though this was not to say that the characters were ineffective. On the contrary the cast was quite impressive as it was filled with memorable characters and performances. Harrison Ford in particular brought his A game as John. With his charisma, Ford brought out the complexity of the gruff character and also made a captivating storyteller when he narrated the film. Along with Ford was a decent supporting cast with the likes Omar Sy and Cara Gee standing out as Perrault and Francoise; while Karen Gillan only had a minimal presence as Mercedes. A questionable addition to the cast was Dan Stevens as the antagonistic Hal. While Stevens did his job well the character felt unnecessary with the desperate elitist being there for the sake of having a villain. Last and most certainly not least was Buck. Animal characters can be tricky to pull off but when it came to Buck this canine was a noteworthy protagonist. Without saying a word, Buck showed a lot of character with his expressions and, though his actions could be uncanny at times, the delivery of this furry adventurer made him a hero that I could easily get behind.
When watching the trailer, aspects such as effects did not impress me; but after seeing the final product the visuals for The Call of the Wild turned out better than expected. While it was not glamorous, the film used the effects to the best of its ability. The direction of using cg dogs could be distracting but the movie balanced it out well as there were points where animated characters felt natural. Along with the effects was the movie’s cinematography which was efficient in both its look and camerawork. While the movie’s could be too vibrant to capture the authenticity of the wilderness, it still worked due to the keen camerawork which was able to capture the exciting nature behind the movie. Yet if there was one element that exceeded expectations it was the music by John Powell. The score was more than fitting as, though it played to Powell’s style, it was exhilarating as it was the right kind of music for an adventure such as this one.
With its exuberant presentation, Call of the Wild ended up being a delightful quest. While it could be too simplistic for its own good, the movie was still effective thanks to its exciting narrative, stellar performances and keen technical elements. While I cannot speak for its authenticity with the book, I can say that this adaptation was an adventure through and through which was more than enough to make Call of the Wild an admirable cinematic experience.