How many times has Hollywood taken a true story and turned it into something different? Hollywood took Chris McCandless’s story and turned it into an overdramatic work of art. Unlike Krakauer’s nonfiction best seller Into the Wild, the movie Into the Wild by Sean Penn overemphasizes ideas or fails to include crucial evidence which twists the viewers understanding of Chris McCandless’s life. The movie overemphasizes Chris’s parents’ relationship and the effect it has on him, creates a love interest for him in “Slab City”, and fails to mention Chris’s knowledge of the wild. Sean Penn’s film skews how people will remember Chris McCandless.
Chris McCandless’s parents may not have had a perfect relationship, nor was their relationship with Chris perfect, but their relationship was not Chris’s only reason for adventuring into the wild. The film “Into the Wild”, compared to Krakauer’s book, overemphasizes Chris’s family relationship and makes Chris’s hatred against his parents the sole reason for Chris’s journey. The majority of the scenes of Chris and his family include his father’s aggression and abuse. The movie starts by showing Chris’s mother dreaming of Chris in her sleep and ends with Chris happily reunited with his family before his death.
The film makes Chris’s desire to get away from his parents his only reason for leaving, whereas the book states many more reasons for going such as a need for freedom, wanting to relieve himself from the materiality of society, and to follow in the footsteps of those who he looked up to, such as Henry David Thoreau and Jack London. Some argue that Chris went into the wild to punish his parents for the pain they caused him, but Chris’s journals state that this is not the only reason why Chris decides to escape. Not only does Sean Penn’s film present Chris as having an abusive family but e also presents Chris as mindless and uneducated when it comes to nature. Even though Chris did not take much money and food with him, he had educated himself about nature before leaving and continued his education during the trip. Krakauer describes Chris’s knowledge of edible plants and it is also evident in his journals, whereas Penn reveals a lack of knowledge as the cause of Chris’s death. The movie depicts Chris’s death to occur because he could not identify the difference between two similar plants, one poisonous and one not.
One may argue that Chris died because he picked the wrong seeds, but that is not the case. Krakauer has done extensive research on the two types of plants and concluded that Chris knew the difference between plants since he had been harvesting the roots and seeds all summer. In reality, it was not that Chris identified the seeds wrong but that he ate the seeds late in the season when the seeds had contained toxic alkaloids or had contained mold. This is a mistake that most people, except trained botanists, could make. But for Chris it ultimately led to his death.
Chris McCandless deserted life as he knew it to get away from his parents, gain his own freedom, and explore nature like the authors he idolized, but the book does not mention that he left in order to find love. The movie presents a love interest for Chris during his visit to “Slab City”. This relationship was not found in Chris’s journal as a reason for his exploration. Chris was looking for freedom and a piece of mind, not a girl to take home with him. Hollywood places relationships in movies just to make their films more interesting, not to prove a fact.
What if Chris really did fall in love and meet someone, one may argue. If he did, then he failed to mention much about it within his journal and it becomes irrelevant to Chris’s story and should not be included within a film about his life. Chris’s personal life remained personal and he did not wish it to be shared with the rest of the world. In conclusion, Chris McCandless was a smart young man who left behind society and a family who he felt did not love him to find a life of his own.
Krakauer’s nonfiction best seller explains Chris’s life as inspirational and moving but Sean Penn’s film skews how people will remember McCandless. Chris’s bad relationship with his parents was not only why he left but because he wanted to find a better life apart from society. When he left, he did not search for love but for himself. Even though Penn’s film creates a false image of McCandless, he will always be a smart and courageous man who did what he wanted and followed his dreams.