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Old 02-16-2020, 08:57 PM   #1
TigerFang
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Default The Call of The Wild

For the fifth time since 1923, Hollywood makes Jack London’s 1903 book “The Call of the Wild” once more.

This time, though, there’s a CGI St. Bernard dog as the main character. I’m not sure I’m going to be okay with the CGI dog. Based on what I saw in the trailer, it seems the decision to use a CGI dog might have been to have the dog character deliver on cue for the sake of a few lighter moments. Then there’s always the animal rights protesters to consider, people who might take issue with how the movie was filmed if real dogs were used. Meanwhile, no one says anything about how the Yukon native people are portrayed, shot, and killed as members of the fictional “Yeehat” tribe in the book or movies. There is a history from which these things derive, though, so I suppose there’s no sense in a revisionist rewrite of history. But, I’ve seen the trailer for this upcoming 2020 version and my hopes are not high for this film to pan any box office gold.

In 1923, Hal Roach produced a silent feature-film version of The Call of the Wild. The story behind the dog chosen for the movie is interesting.

+12 years

In 1935, Clark Gable and Loretta Young starred in The Call of the Wild. This time, a woman was added to the mix of trail-trudging characters (of course). The plot barely has any resemblance to the book, and it is a movie typical of its era.

+37 years

In 1972, Charlton Heston went to Norway and Spain to make a version of The Call of the Wild. It stays close to the book, which is perhaps the best part of this film version. The dialogue looping is too obvious to ignore, and the acting of the supporting characters ought to be ignored. Some lines of dialogue violate the senses, even Heston’s. No one pried any guns from his cold, gray hands, but at least the movie stayed close to Jack London’s original book. It’s available on one of the streaming services, and would be good to see before going to the latest incarnation of the book on film. One of the best parts of this 1972 film is that there’s real snow in the scenes; global warming was not yet a problem then, whereas The Revenant had trouble finding snow for its scenes. Bravo Zulu to the cinematographers of this 1972 version for working so hard in the snow to enhance the cinematic storytelling with multiple angles and takes.

+ 4 years

In 1976, author James Dickey — hot off his “Deliverance” novel and movie fame — penned the screenplay for his version of The Call of the Wild. It’s described as “James Dickey meets Jack London” and “Deliverance in the Klondike.” I’ve never seen it, but I’m not sure that I want to, either. It’s probably one of those films of that period (and in the Westerns of that day and earlier, too) where the characters’ costumes are all spanking clean all the time, even after a tussle in the dirt or snow.

+ 21 years

A 1997 adaptation and TV movie called The Call of the Wild: Dog of the Yukon starred Rutger Hauer and was narrated by Richard Dreyfuss.

+ 12 years

In 2009, a version with the same title has a modern storyline that isn’t remotely similar to anything Jack London wrote. It’s so far removed from the spirit of the orignal Jack London story, I can’t even put the title up as a link because it would be sacrilegious to do so. In it, a young girl takes in an injured wild wolf-dog hybrid, nurses it back to health, and then takes it to Boston, of all places, and as a pet, no less. Yeah, right. That’s so dangerous in “real life,” it only makes a mockery of the film.The logline alone for this film tells me to finish carving my meerschaum pipe rather than view the film.

+ 11 years

In 2020, we now have Harrison Ford in The Call of the Wild interacting with a dog that isn’t really there. Ford probably pulls it off, too. But just from watching the trailer, an animated canine in a live-action setting already has rubbed my sensibilities the wrong way. It’s in the dog’s eyes. There’s a lie there that the animators cannot hide and cannot make real enough. Such is the psychic power and abilities of real-life dogs. For the animated dog reason alone, I can’t imagine watching two or more hours of this version of The Call of the Wild, so I’ll probably give this latest film version a chance only when it gets out on streaming services and I can walk out on the film in my own home.
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Last edited by TigerFang : 02-23-2020 at 09:42 PM.
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Old 02-21-2020, 09:33 AM   #2
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Default Re: The Call of The Wild

According to rave reviews from movie-goers, my earlier assessment of this film based on its trailer was 100% wrong and 180º away from where I thought it would land. As an avid Jack London reader from an early age, it now looks as though I must see the film for myself.
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Old 02-21-2020, 01:09 PM   #3
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Default Re: The Call of The Wild

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Originally Posted by TigerFang View Post
According to rave reviews from movie-goers, my earlier assessment of this film based on its trailer was 100% wrong and 180º away from where I thought it would land. As an avid Jack London reader from an early age, it now looks as though I must see the film for myself.



Let us know how it goes. I hope it's better than the trailer makes it look.

Especially the dog. Yes, dogs have eyebrows and can move them to mimic a little expression, but nothing like the over-expressivness the cgi dog does.

I can't take it seriously and if the studio thinks people will honestly think that is a real dog.....please.
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Old 02-21-2020, 06:34 PM   #4
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Default Re: The Call of The Wild

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Originally Posted by Darthclaw13 View Post
Let us know how it goes. I hope it's better than the trailer makes it look.

Especially the dog. Yes, dogs have eyebrows and can move them to mimic a little expression, but nothing like the over-expressiveness the CGI dog does.

I can't take it seriously and if the studio thinks people will honestly think that is a real dog.....please.
On Sunday afternoon, I will down an extra measure from my trusted bottle of Dublin Dr. Pepper’s “Willing Suspension of Disbelief” and see the movie under the guise of accompanying grandchildren whose idea to see the film was not theirs yet they want to go, if only for the popcorn.
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Old 02-23-2020, 06:19 PM   #5
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Default Re: The Call of The Wild

Today I saw the 2020 version of the movie The Call of the Wild .

It’s not fair for any adults to critique this film, this live-action animation meld of professional acting and digital artistic talents. However, as an adult who has now seen this film, to say something about the film seems inescapable.

The movie is clearly not intended to reach adults on any cerebral level, even though there are adult themes and some aggressive violence peppered throughout the tale, violence I thought was too much for underage youths of the U.S.A. However, I was reminded of a Disney film called Treasure Island (1950) in which a young boy carried a pipe and tobacco, a knife, and a pistol and all manner of violence occurred in that film. In the 1970s, violent scenes of that movie were cut for its release on video to receive a G rating, a Disney practice until the 1990s when Disney allowed a PG rating of its movies.

So, a little violence goes a long way in telling a screen story, and Disney has been allowing it for a long time now. The Klondike Gold Rush setting certainly was much rougher and more violent than this film let on, so bravo to Disney for allowing just enough to tell the spine of London’s story.

These days the youngest schoolchildren have to practice active shooter drills, so it was no surprise that my grandchildren were unfazed and unperturbed by any of the violence represented in the film. The violence in this film was passé for them, what with violent cartoon characters, horror movies, and no end of atrocities represented daily on today’s Internet. When asked, their only comment after the movie was that they “liked it,” most likely a polite reply to doting grandparents who paid for everything.

Meanwhile, it surprised me to see the main character man shot with a rifle at a late point in the film. Is that a lesson against gun violence? Perhaps, if viewed in the correct light. It certainly wasn’t an assault rifle, and earlier in the film, the main character used a rifle to save other people from wolves. The later shooting of the main character possibly drives home a point that guns have a purpose until that purpose is subverted for violent ends against other human beings.

The storyline uses Jack London’s 1903 story as its guide, but takes license with it, of course, if only to make it palatable as a PG-rated movie. But who was the target audience? Fourteen- and fifteen-year-olds might like it best.

What can I say? It’s a Disney movie, and very well made for what they intended to make. There’s only one thing that could have been done to better advantage, IMO, (SPOILER ALERT!) and that is: there’s a Black Wolf apparition that appears when Buck feels his wolf heritage welling up in him. The trouble with it is that when it appears, is seems that there really is a Black Wolf character there, which there isn’t, or at least, the audience is supposed to “get it” that it’s a spirit wolf. The way it’s edited, there’s some action with Buck, then the Black Wolf appears as if it is there, then there’s a close-up of Buck, then some action distracts him, then Buck returns to look at the Black Wolf and it’s gone. It takes a couple of these scenes to figure out — especially for children — that the Black Wolf is merely a stirring in Buck’s soul. The way to do to its best advantage what I believe they intended would be to see the Black Wolf materialize before Buck’s eyes with a dissolve, then perhaps we hear an echo of a wolf howl, then Buck becomes distracted by some action, then he turns back to see the the Black Wolf apparition dissolve way and dissipate before his eyes.

Except for Buck’s eyes — which showed too much white around the edges all the time — the digital dogs were not a distraction for me once the movie was underway. I don’t know why; perhaps because the movie only gives close-ups to Buck. Ninety-nine percent of the time, the dogs move like real dogs, and only their expressiveness gives them away and reminds the viewer they are CGI animations. Even so, Buck was a very believable digital dog despite the plethora of anthropomorphism and too much eye white.

My change of heart on accepting the digital dog to tell the story surprised even me. Maybe it’s because as a boy, I waited each week for Walt Disney himself to introduce his show of wonderful stories. In other words, I’m conditioned to be a Disney fan. Maybe it’s because at its heart, The Call of the Wild is a children’s movie and doesn’t deserve such scathing scrutiny or corrosive criticism over such a relatively minor detail as a CGI dog. If anything, the film showcases just how far digital manipulation has come in a few short decades and how believable it is now.

This movie might inspire ’tweens and teens to read the original story, to research the history of the Klondike Gold Rush, and to become better acquainted with history and printed literature in general. The hope I have for this film is for it to have that type of imapct on the children who see it. But with all of the electronic devices and video games available and turning brains to mush, I’m not holding my breath for kids to give up those endorphin-producing audio-visual electronics in favor of reading books.

There are many who may not know, but in addition to the time he spent in the Klondike territory, Jack London was “inspired” to write The Call of the Wild story by another book published in 1902 titled “My Dogs in the Northland,” by missionary minister Egerton Young. Also in 1903, Macmillan Publishing purchased the rights to London’s book for $2,500. Since then, The Call of the Wild book has never been out of print. I wonder if the other dogs came from Egerton Young’s book; I have yet to read it.

During his year-long stay in the Klondike, London did encounter a real-life St.Bernard/Scotch Collie-mix dog that belonged to Marshall Latham Bond and his brother Louis Whitford Bond. The ranch depicted in the book and in many films is modeled after the Bond Ranch in California.
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Last edited by TigerFang : 02-28-2020 at 07:09 AM.
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