A lonely but imaginative boy is fed up with being ignored at home and after an argument with his mother, runs away. He reaches a pond and gets into a small sailing boat. The pond soon becomes a sea and after days afloat he finds himself on an island inhabited with seven giant creatures. Spotting a similarity between himself and the destructive Carol (James Gandolfini) the boy Max (Max Records) soon finds himself in the middle of the group and convinces them he is a King in order to stop them eating him. Each monster is like a version of Max and themes of jealousy, fear, boredom and frustration are the same which trouble pre teen children as they grow up.
I never saw the film on its initial release back in 2009 but had heard some good things about it. A quick search confirms that it appeared on numerous Top 10 lists but for me it isn’t quite that good. I thought the effects and cinematography were excellent and the story had its moments but it was also a little dull in places and the sort of film which I’d rather have watched in my early teens.
Although based on a children’s book and featuring a young lead, the film is packaged as more of an adult film. I’m sure it would appeal to children but it doesn’t treat its audience like idiots. The script is well fleshed out, clever and witty and was a surprise to me. I wasn’t expecting such an adult tale. Even though it’s clever, the film can be viewed on two levels. On the one hand it can be seen as a simple children’s adventure story but if you wish to look deeper you can see that the story is about childhood angst. Max’s personality is fractured and shined back in his face with the various creatures he meets and his attempts to bring the group together can be seen as his subconscious trying to bring himself together before he can go back to his family.
The opening act feels very low budget due to the way it is filmed. Handheld cameras are used and the film has a gritty look. As soon as we encounter the creatures though the film takes on a glossy sheen but still somehow remains grounded in reality. The visual effects are superb. Using a combination of animatronics, suit work and CGI the creatures still look fantastic three years on. The visual style on the whole is really impressive and I could have watched the monsters move about all day. The voice acting not only matches the physical personalities of the creatures but like the script are very adult sounding. Max Records gives a great performance too.
Where the Wild Things Are had a budget of $100 million which is unbelievable. Although less than half the budget of the likes of Avatar, $100 million for a film on this scale seems expensive. It’s not surprising then that the movie failed to make a profit. Overall Where the Wild Things Are is a visually assured and interesting children’s adventure which has enough to appeal to both children and adults alike but as a result it fails to park itself as a favourite for either group.