Jack London’s ‘The Call of the Wild’ gets adapted into new major motion picture


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Advertisement for The Call of the Wild film adaptation by Fred Jackman.

Rolando Rios, Reporter

            The Call of the Wild is the newest adaptation of Jack London’s 1903 novel. Starring Harrison Ford as John Thornton and directed by Chris Sanders (known for Lilo and Stitch and How to Train Your Dragon), this film is unique in that the main character Buck is portrayed through motion-capture by Terry Notary. Sanders has said that accuracy to the source material is what separates this film from the 1935 silent version starring Clark Gable and the 1972 Charlton Heston film.

“One of the things that was exciting was that this is the first time anybody has ever done the entire novel…Previously, no film has tackled more than the last 30 pages, and everybody has really focused on the Thornton dog relationship, which is a great relationship. The ambition of this film was to begin at the beginning and tell the entire arc of Buck’s story and that’s just one of the greatest things about this particular version of it because we get to see as a sled dog for the very first time…The thing that made me so comfortable about working [on the film] was the huge animated element that was going to make this film work, that [is] from where I come from, and I felt like I could bring something to the party,” Sanders, in an interview with ComingSoon, said.

WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD! Set during the Klondike gold rush, the film starts with Buck, a St. Bernard/Scotch Collie dog living his daily life in Santa Clara, California where his owner is a prominent judge in the community. After ruining an important dinner, Buck’s owner punishes him by locking him outside. Buck is subsequently captured and shipped to the Yukon. When he arrives, he is sold to two freight haulers, Perrault (played by Omar Sy) and Francoise (played by Cara Gee) to be part of their sled dog team. While serving as the duo’s sled dog, Buck develops a rivalry with Spitz, the lead dog. Eventually this rivalry escalates into physical fights, with Spitz later wondering off. Due to Spitz’s absence, Buck now leads the sled dogs. Throughout the film Buck encounters a black wolf that is possibly meant to personify “the call.”

“I also read this book as a student, and I was moved by it. But I hadn’t revisited it for 40 or 50 years. So, I reread the book, and I thought it was really an interesting movie to make,” Ford, in an interview with ScreenRant, said.

The film itself is much less violent than the novel, with many of the deaths in the book absent or changed to be less gruesome. Overall, it retains the core themes of the book while adding its own. Some minor characters are cut from the film due to time constraints and others like the Yeehat tribe were removed, possibly in order to not indulge in a problematic stereotype that was commonplace during the book’s original publication.

Increased use of telegrams leads to Perrault and Francoise being fired. The sled dogs are then sold to Hal (Dan Stevens) to be used in searching for gold, however Thornton warns that the frozen lake they are passing through is breaking. Eventually, the sled dogs abandon Hal. Buck comes into the possession of Thornton. Hal eventually tracks Thornton and Buck down and starts a bar fight. After others break up the fight, Hal retreats.

Buck and Thornton stumble upon an old cabin in a secluded part of the wilderness. There it is revealed that Thornton is a divorcee that is grieving the death of his son. He and Buck go panning for gold, eventually finding enough to retire. Over the course of this section of the film, Buck connects with a local pack of wolves. Thornton, sensing a change in Buck, plans to release him. The cabin burns down due to accident A, paranoid Hal finds the cabin and holds Thornton at gunpoint, accusing Thornton of hiding the gold. Buck pushes Hal into the burning cabin, but a wounded Thornton cannot be saved. A sorrowful Buck retreats into the forest, joining the wolf pack. The movie ends with Buck becoming a legend of the Yukon.