Spike Jonze +film review

I was just checkin' out The Creators Project (which I only just found out about since recently becoming a Vice student ambassador) and I saw that Spike Jonze is being highlighted at the moment.
He has such an earnest, real style which you can see in the lovely short film I'm Here.

click image to see the entire film

He also directed the recent nostalgic feature-length film Where the Wild Things Are which is based on the famous children's book of the same title.

I was dying to see the film when it first came out, but didn't get to. But then a few days ago I managed to check it out. It wasn't what I'd expected at all! Actually, it was more than I could have hoped for from a feature-length film based on a nine page book.
Generally this film has been well received (and rightfully so!). The criticism I've seen for it so far hasn't been very fair. A lot of it basically says that the film is too dark for children and presents them with adult issues that they wouldn't understand. One review said something to the effect of it being too adult for children and too dull for adults.

These critics assume that children cannot handle certain subjects/concepts and, in my opinion, seeks to keep children (rather unrealistically) in a bubble. And I think that sort of attitude is rather condescending. Children can understand a lot more than people give them credit for. When they don't, they ask questions. To me, if a film has children curious about its characters and wanting to know more, it's doing something right. It is a little dark and a little frightening, I suppose, but I think that's also exciting. Maybe the less adventurous children should stay away...

The only actual (minor) criticism I have is that it was so random at times it was reminiscent of the way in which children tell stories: fantastic, but a little all-over-the-place. But then, considering that it is from a child's perspective and it's based on a child's book about getting into the imagined world of a child, I wouldn't say that's a negative thing really. I think it invites you to a place where you just have to accept the things you see and the things that happen.

Like most people, I knew about the book first. Unlike most people, I didn't know it from my childhood. I had done a (very) brief study of it in college in a Children's Literature course and thought it was okay - nothing special. I had no nostalgic ties to the book, but I really enjoyed the film. It transformed the book's story into something much deeper; a story that left you with a lot to think about and you could really sink your teeth into. I absolutely love the way every character and the whole ambiance of the film feels so real. After seeing it, I'm thinking about ways to possibly fit it into my dissertation...

The characters in the film are very real. At one point the protagonist, Max, did annoy me a little... but then most child characters do. (That said, I did well up for him at the beginning for being all lonely and friendless...)
But what I really admire the film for is the fact that, unlike many films/books about characters entering new worlds, the creatures are living their lives before Max comes to the island. They aren't just sitting waiting for him to give them hearts or courage. Or to tell him riddles at mad tea parties. (No offence to the lovely stories where the enchanted world's characters do wait around for the protagonist to see/solve things.) And nothing is really resolved in the end.
spoiler(?): Max just goes home after having completely wrecked changed the creatures' lives.

There's just so much I could say about this poignant and delightful film. I really really loved it. And I'd recommend it to any child or adult.


  1. This was a GREAT POST. I thought Jonze's interpretation of the short book was very interesting. I thought it felt kind of long at parts, but it definitely did more for the book than the book did for the film; if that makes sense. I wanted to love Max the entire time, but I found it mildly difficult because he also annoyed me at a few parts, but I thought he was adorable.

  2. I couldn't get through that film. Max was just far too annoying. The cinematography was lovely though, I thought.

  3. Thanks, Chelsea! I generally don't make review posts or long posts about what I think about things, but I'm starting to feel like I should do that more often. I like it when other people write about things like this and I like blogs that include, not just the author's creations, but things that the author finds interesting. And I like hearing other people's responses to this sort of thing. I sometimes forget that and just think "no one will find what I have to say interesting and I'll just sound ranty."

    lol, Naj, I thought you'd feel that way (about both Max and the cinematography). In all honesty, he annoyed me quite a bit and would have annoyed me more, but I decided early on to just accept that he was going to be that way.. I think it was necessary to the story for him to behave that way and remain that way the entire film. I really do wish you would try to get through the whole film, though. I am seriously considering incorporating it into my dissertation...or basing my dissertation on it (with a psychoanalytic framework more than a cinematographic context).