Don’t answer ‘The Call of the Wild’

Monday, February 24, 2020 - 2:34pm

NOSELL

20th Century Studios

I fell asleep while watching “The Call of the Wild.” 

For the first half of the movie it feels like nothing is happening. The first forty minutes are completely episodic, with almost no thread of continuity or consistency keeping each scene together, with the exception being that each story has the dog Buck as the central character.

The whole movie follows Buck from his role as the spoiled house dog to his decision to accept his role in nature and the wild. And while the audience empathizes with because of the awful circumstances of his life — like the abuse he often faced at the hands of humans — frankly, the fact that the dog is completely CGI’ed threw me off. It’s not like I was expecting the creators of the movie to train a real dog to do everything that the Buck of the original Jack London novel did, but it still felt wrong. To me, watching a movie centered around animals becomes unnatural when they have almost human expressions on their faces. The animals become caricatures of the roles they are supposed to have in the film when they become too similar to humans. The overwhelming use of CGI also begs the incredibly concerning question of whether or not we’ll even need people in the film business anymore, which is a little too ‘robots taking over the world’ for me. 

Harrison Ford (“Star Wars: The Force Awakens”), while receiving top billing for the film in his role as John Thornton, only really appears midway through. When John and Buck meet, the story really picks up. Their blossoming relationship is easily the most tender part of the film. They genuinely care about each other and protect each other against all adversaries. 

Throughout the film, there is a wild black dog figure that serves as a symbol for Buck’s instinct and desire to answer the wild’s call. Soon he begins to think that he should succumb to it. The love John and Buck feel for each other makes the ending of the film bittersweet, as John is pulled toward the human world and Buck toward the wild. 

However, their relationship is the only interesting and worthwhile part of the film. There are a few interesting action scenes, like when Buck leads his pack away from an avalanche, but those are few and far between. And since they all feel disconnected from one another, you lose interest quickly. Combined with a cringey voiceover from Ford throughout the whole movie and a weird hybrid of too much CGI and not enough reality, the film falls flat. 

I never read the book, so I don’t know whether or not true fans of the book will love or hate this movie. But, in my opinion, this wasn’t a movie that needed to be made. It’s a classic, a literary masterpiece in the eyes of many, but the depth of the story is probably best transferred through prose, not a nearly dialogue-less film.