Where The Wild Things Are (2009)
Movie Review by Anwar Abdul-Qawi
It is really easy for some to pass over this movie because of its childish cover, and title. But when you take time to sit down, and watch this film, you come to realize that it probably wasn’t want you were expecting, at least that’s how I felt about it. In this film directed by Spike Jonze, based off of the book, “Where The Wild Things Are,” it revolves an interesting, but at times scary character himself named Max. Within the first few minutes of the movie the viewer is hit with this character, and doesn’t waste anytime expressing how wild he is. We learn soon that Max is a very lonely character, and is becoming of age at which he starts understanding events that happen around him. Even though the movie may have pushed the character’s craziness a bit, you still can’t help but feel sorry for him, which is a very great start, if a movie can get you in that feeling within only a few minutes.
The character is given a wolf costume that stays with him throughout the film, and becomes almost apart of him. Without saying too much, because of a chain of events, Max is torn, and hurt, and runs away from home, resulting in the movies amazing change into a new world.
The transition into this new setting was surprisingly very smooth, and believable, and watching Max’s interaction with these mysterious “wild things” is very both amazing, and chilling to watch. There is a lot of content in this film, dealing with Max’s struggle for acceptance in the real world, his views and difficulty of being a leader, and the “wild thing’s” characters themselves. There is a certain feeling you get when you watch Max, a young boy trying to tame, and control beast, that have surprisingly not made in a childish fashion. It was really amazing watching the interaction between Max, and the beast. I am still shocked at how even though this film could be for young audiences, at times the film can get dark, and really depressing. So when Max first meets these monsters, their first reaction is to kill and eat him, which is pretty hard, and scary for a child’s movie. These monsters, even though friendly at times, are given sharp teeth, claws, and when they are first introduced they may even frighten young audiences. Since the plot revolves around Max trying to show this beast that he can be a good king, and keep them happy, you can already tell that there will be many flaws in his plan.
Being a movie that parents would take their children to, a lot of the time Max is shown making these creatures perform violent acts for fun. The movie does a great job of making his ruling believable, and then quickly bring us back to reality that he is just a boy, in a costume, whenever his plans fail. The only thing that is more interesting than watching these wild things on film is the interaction between Max, and the monsters. A lot of the shots, and visuals are once again very believable, and a lot of the times you will actually fear for Max’s safety throughout the film, because even though they are just having fun, this movie has done a great job of keeping you happy in this fantasy world, but at the same time on cringing that Max won’t get smashed, or killed.
Along the amazing visuals, there is a very beautiful soundtrack added to the film. I would give the music a 10/10. The music has a little kid hipster vibe to it, which really gets you in the mood. A lot of child films tend to abuse, or over use popular media songs just for a laugh, or just to put it in their because it is popular, without it matching the feel of the movie. I am glad to say that, “Where The Wild Things Are,” successfully was able to stay away from that. A lot of the music just contains children just screaming words, like “Yeah!” consecutively, but it is good that the music is just as wild as the movie itself. This was one of the first times I was actually able to take “monsters” in a kid’s movie seriously. These wild things were not dancing to pop songs, or making silly jokes, or references to the real world, they were believable in their own way. Also with making believable a lot of sounds really were done pretty well. Whether it’s the sound of a tree be smashed, or just the sound of footsteps, everything seemed natural, and it fit perfectly in the movie.
The movie’s dialogue was very well done. Each character had their own way of presenting themselves, and speaking to each other, but the real character that shines the most is Max, not because he is the main character, but because he is pretty much the only living person on set, most of the time. His acting was very well done, and believable, and it was interesting to see his character change throughout the movie.
As I mentioned before this films visuals are on point. It is cool to point out that a lot of the beautiful different locations, such as deserts and forests were actually real locations. With that the lighting, and color aspect of the film are really enjoyable to look at, reasons being that a lot of shots, and angles mixed with the lighting look make Max, and the wild things seem real, and achieving that in a movie is a good thing. It is always a let down to watch a movie and to be like, “oh that monster is so fake, and cheesy.” Feelings like that ruin films, and detaches you from the experience, but in this film, you are made to believe that these creatures are just as real, just as real as they are to Max. One of my favorite scenes is when Max first gives out his first order, as being king, and he decides for everyone to run around, and yell. This scene was very well filmed because the angle was a nice wide shot, and it showed Max running downhill, and the minsters behind him running, and it all looked smooth and real. It was a really great shot.
So throughout the film, Max becomes leader, of these beasts, and gets caught up in the feeling, loved, accepted, and noticed. Since back in the real world, he is ignored by his single mom, who wants to be happy, and find someone new, and by his teenage sister, who of course finds a boyfriend, and leaves him. Here it is where Max develops, as he attempts to rule over these wild things. Not spoiling too much, but Max meets a special monster, who serves as one of the main characters, and some can say that this beast represents Max, or even surpasses Max in wildness. Of course Max finds himself, having to be the tamer in this world opposed to the one being tamed, and it is really chilling seeing Max’s character mature, and finally being able to see himself.
Again without saying so much, it is clear that Max will eventually have to go back home some point in the story. It would be odd, if he were to leave his real mother, and have his story end happily ever after with him in this new world. So knowing that he makes a return foreshadows the fact that Max fails at king. This is not a spoiler, this is clear. I won’t mention how he fails, but it is very sad to see his break down as king and his reconstruction as a boy.
“Where The Wild Things Are,” is a very spectacular film to watch if you are into films that will open your mind. This isn’t an average kid’s film, full of senseless jokes; this is a film that parents, adults, teens, and almost everyone can get something out of. Yes at times the really young audience may not be fully interested in the film, because it mainly focusses on the drama of Max. But it makes you look back at your childhood, and opens your mind to remember that all kids have to grow up at one point in their life. It teaches you that even though you may think the world is all about you when you are young; it shows you that it really isn’t. It shows a heart breaking real scenario of someone who just wants to feel loved, or have a purpose, and at the end of the day, you learn that life is just a lesson. “Happiness is not always the best way to be happy,” is a quote from one of the characters in the movie, meaning that even though you may feel as though that making someone happy is the best thing to do, in the long run, it may not be good for the person, or good for yourself, which opens questions, like, “is Max really needed for these wild things to live?”,” would they be better off her he left?, “or, “would he be better off leaving?” The only thing Max wants is to feel loved, and being king is his way of getting that. In order to be loved, he has to do things to keep the wild things happy, and even though it is a nice thing for him to try to do so it is clear that it is an impossible task to do so, meaning that it would only result in pain, than good.
You will be taken back to the times when you were a child, and at the end you will have a feeling of happiness, and sadness. A feeling that will make you want to be a part of the fantasy world, and return to being a child again. A feeling that will make you look back when you let go of certain things, and realized that there was a point in time where you had to grow up, and never return to a land called childhood. I give “Where The Wild Things Are” a 4.5 out of 5 stars, this film will remind you that inside all us, at one point in time, was a wild thing, soon to be tamed, and left behind.