A Look At 'Where the Wild Things Are'
Maurice Sendak wrote and illustrated the playful, innocent classic back in 1963. "Where The Wild Things Are" is a significant little book, and not just by an 8-year-old's standards. It won a Caldecott medal, an annual award given to the artist of the most distinguished American children's story with illustrations. It was adapted to the stage by Sendak in 1979 and is finally making its big-screen debut after years in development.
The voices of the Wild Things range from the unfamiliar to oddly familiar. Some of the ones you may recognize but need help identifying are: Forest Whitaker as big-nosed Ira, Catherine O'Hara as rhino-horned Judith, and James Gandolfini as Carol. Newcomer Max Records plays the costume-garbed, crown-wearing Max. The live scenes were shot in Australia - possibly second only to the spectacular nature found in New Zealand - and the result pays off in the trailer.
Who doesn't love the Muppets? They've been underused in the current world of movies where CGI and computer animation have taken over. Not to say this film is completely devoid of all post-production magic, but the actual Wild Things were manufactured by Jim Henson's Creature Shop. Word is that there were people inside each creature - although the trailer shows them acting pretty agile and resembling massive furry pears. These human-run, animatronic creations save a lot of cash in special effects, but under the duress of nature the elements can wreak a bit of havoc. This may have exponentially developed into some problems associated with the technical side of the film and added fuel to the fire that it may not be finished under Spike Jonze's direction or finished at all. But check those credits after you watch the trailer. All is saved.
Jonze (Adaptation, Being John Malkovich, Jackass) hasn't had an easy time making the film - his version has been riddled with obstacles. There were rumblings last February that the bigwig studios wanted the entire film re-shot. There were rumors that the animation of the Wild Things' mouths did not work. Max's character, being an unlikable bratty boy, raised concern among test audiences. And there were issues with the dark tone of the movie. These problems have seemingly been resolved because the film that is being tweaked is a vision Jonze allegedly supports. So fear not, the dark and imaginative tone may remain until the very end.
Another problem with the film involved mechanical issues. People in suits, animatronics, plus CGI mouth movements all create a nice mess to sift through. Howard Berger, Oscar winner for make-up on The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe, declined to work on the film, citing his issues with the original content being adapted for film in the tone Jonze was taking. This concern always exists when a book makes a transition from print to screen - much more so when it is a beloved book or series with a hardcore following or sentimental value. The people that stir up the hubbub over a movie such as Harry Potter or Twilight always have something to say when a new film emerges from the pages of a book.
The book is a favorite for many but unknown to some even today. Go read the original if you haven't, and then judge the adapted film version. View it as Jonze's take on the book, even if it doesn't match your own.
Are you eager to see "Where The Wild Things Are?" Will it live up to expectations? Let us know in the comments!
Story by Kate Kostal
Starpulse contributing writer
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