‘Call of the Wild’: a modern take on a legendary novel

The Call of the Wild movie adds a modern twist on a classic.

20th Century Studios and 3 Arts Entertainment [Fair Use]

The “Call of the Wild” movie adds a modern twist on a classic.

Henry Sanders, Staff Writer

As I walked into the theater, expecting to be met with the Columbus cinema’s typical hollow vacancy, I was surprised to see almost every row filled with people–not teenagers, but Boomers. “Call of the Wild” is not meant to attract the action hungry and romance savvy Gen Z, but it is made for a much older generation, one who still remembers the novel; “Call of the Wild” is a movie adaptation of the 1903 novel by Jack London. 

See what I mean by Boomer?

Movie adaptations of popular books can range from Oscar-worthy to quick cash grabs and a ruined franchise. A bad adaptation is not only hard to watch but also ruins the original work as well, enraging longtime fans and deterring new ones. Except “Call of the Wild” isn’t a franchise destroyer, it’s a remake of a classic novel that creates a realistic world view by incorporating beautiful backdrops and believable animals with the help of CGI. 

“Call of the Wild” stars a CGI dog named Buck who endures tragedy and strife while adventuring through the harsh, snowy climate of Alaska. Forced to adapt to the natural world, Buck changes throughout the story as first a spoiled house dog to a strong, independent beast that has everyone shouting, “who’s a good boy?” With Harrison Ford behind narration and a leading acting role, it was an easy transition from seat to screen.

I often became lost in the movie, not from a narrative point of view but a from a visual one. It was of no argument that the shining star of the movie were the visual effects that kept me guessing what was real and what wasn’t. Every movement Buck made and interaction he had was so crisp it made me fall in love with dogs all over again. The CGI created such a realistic image of “Call of the Wild” that long time readers of the original work finally had their ideas of what the story looked like answered in a visually stunning performance. 

As the movie came to life from the big screen, themes of neglect and companionship presented themselves through Buck’s journey into the wilderness, as he moves further away from civilization and into the wild. Preferring a real dog actor compared to a CGI created one, I was left with a feeling of uncertainty to the level of emotional attachment I could have to Buck. However, the mistreatment Buck endures on screen is something everyone, including myself, in the audience felt uncomfortable about, instantly establishing a relationship between viewer and actor. 

Anyone can be persuaded to get behind an adorable animal protagonist and that’s exactly what “Call of the Wild” does. The plot does well to keep in motion Buck’s changing attitude and increasing confidence as companions come and go for the canine hero. It almost feels like an odyssey, as the story progressively comes in contact with conflict, Buck has a bildungsroman effect as he goes from domesticated to wild. 

A movie adaption of a book is risky and are often guaranteed lower reviews based on lack of consistency and fact-checking that directors frequently neglect to get right. “Call of the Wild” is a successful redemption effort of terrible adaptations. The world-building and visual effects does a great job of presenting longtime fans of the classic novel with a new look on how the story played out. The generational divide between viewers of “Call of the Wild” can be large, however, the main character of Buck does its best to fill that gap by providing an adorable companion to adventure alongside with. If you don’t like dogs, don’t waste your time.