“He had been suddenly jerked from the heart of civilization and flung into the heart of things primordial.” – Jack London
Just a man and his dog, a tale long told and many times before. It would seem society’s love for our four legged friends has done everything but wavered and so these stories are still told with no signs of slowing. We want them to feel free but safe and loved leading to conflicts of the mind and heart. To be free is to sometimes face danger but too much time behind closed doors can lead to a life not truly lived. The Call of the Wild is about a life lived with a goal not known but no less pursued. That life, in this case, is called simply but emphatically, Buck – the wolf born a dog.
As much as Harrison Ford is shown in the trailers for this story his role is of a supporting nature escorting the main character, a furry, loveable, intelligent soul named Buck, who wants to know love, not understanding what form that love can show itself to be, to an ultimate grasp of his true identity found only in the wild. Often in these kinds of stories, this one being no different, there is a lesson to be learned by the human counterpart that only his/her furry companion can teach. In this case John Thornton (Ford) must face harsh realities of a life without a son but never a life without meaning. Buck, eventually finding John discovers his place away from man but never forgetting those that were kind and embracing of him and all of his puppy-like energy often seen as a nuisance to those who simply didn’t understand him. They find one another and begin a life of rebuilding in every sense.
Much of this film is computer generated from the immersive, expansive valleys to the animals inhabiting them, Buck included, this aspect of the film can understandably be seen as distracting. However if you give into the story and just allow everything to unfold at its own pace you find that before long you don’t really care about the lack of realism sometimes blanketing the screen. If you allow it to, The Call of the Wild can be a real adventure filled with harrowing, dramatic moments where you find yourself cheering on a dog whose entire existence is found within a computer. I would argue that while not reaching a kind of realism sought after in, for example, The Lion King remake, it was never a goal they tried to reach. Instead it would appear they reached for a healthy amount of realism but never forgetting to inject certain choices of a stylistic nature. In other words I think they had an idea in mind that differed from simply “making it look realistic” and chose a different direction almost entirely.
The first two acts of the story find our duo on different paths we as the audience hope will lead to finding one another. Of course as with any adventure film there must be obstacles to overcome otherwise a character arc would be impossible leaving us with the same exact people, or dogs, that we met in the beginning. This would bring about the question – of what use was the road if nothing was gained from it? To grow and better oneself there must be trial and error and with our main two characters, they undoubtedly face the odds, seemingly never ending, seemingly insurmountable every time.
The moments of love and cuddles would be far less meaningful if not for the moments of near death experiences. Their relationship would not feel as earned if not for the scenes of torture and inhumane treatment, faced by both dog and man alike. It can be inspirational if you only let it be.
Heavily covered in computer imagery, the creators simply ask for a leap of faith here and to suspend your disbelief in hopes of finding the beauty of this at times harrowing but always engaging story of survival and companionship. Harrison Ford finds the tragedy in his character and conveys it best in his moments of solemn silence, simply wondering if he even has a place in this world anymore. You see purpose find his character again in the form of Buck, a dog only legend could muster. You either buy into the visuals and go on a fun, sometimes sad journey or you tap out five minutes in. I gave myself the chance to experience the story and the visuals came together enough that I found myself caring, even in the moments that are completely implausible. The dog at the heart of the story does things that can make you question everything, feeling heavily influenced by Disney-like decisions, complete with human facial expressions and intelligence that surpasses most people driving on the roads of modern society. Again, it’s all about a certain amount of suspension of disbelief. The Call of the Wild has the ability to be something more, if you only allow it to be.
Rated PG For: some violence, peril, thematic elements and mild language
Runtime: 100 minutes
After Credits Scene: No
Genre: Adventure, Family, Drama
Starring: Harrison Ford, Dan Stevens, Omar Sy, Bradley Whitford
Directed By: Chris Sanders
Out of 5 Nerdskulls
Story: 4/ Acting: 4/ Directing: 4/ Visuals: 4
OVERALL: 4 Nerdskulls
Buy to Own: Yes
Check out the trailer below:
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