Harrison Ford is back for another crazy adventure, with his furry companion as a dog instead of a Wookiee.
Directed by Chris Sanders, “The Call of the Wild” is an adaptation of the Jack London novel of the same name. The movie tells the story of a sweet 19th century canine named Buck whose life quickly shifts when he is stolen from his home in California and sold to become a sled dog in Alaska. As he embarks on several unpleasant journeys, Buck meets John (Harrison Ford), who takes him in and allows him to explore his wild side, unrestrained for the first time.
The movie begins with Harrison Ford’s iconic and well-known voice narrating the opening scene and several others throughout the film. Ford’s solemn voice instantly sets up the serious tone of the film, but it is almost immediately contradicted with the first look at Buck. The bizarre CGI of Buck is at first distracting, and he seems more digitized than the other sled dogs in a way that renders the experience unequal. At times, Buck even seems to have a special capacity to show more emotion on his face than the human actors around him. However, as viewers become invested in the progressing story, the CGI slowly begins to feel natural, and it’s easy to forget Buck is a computerized dog.
Once again playing a father mourning the absence of his son, Ford parallels many of his other iconic roles in a powerfully moving portrayal of John. Prior to meeting Buck, John has retreated to a life of alcoholism and solitude after the death of his young son. However, when Buck comes into his life, John slowly transitions back to his former self, and Ford blossoms with the opportunity to play a refreshingly optimistic role later in the film.
The cinematography of the movie is absolutely beautiful. Alongside a perfectly buoyant soundtrack, the story covers themes of nature and wilderness, creating a heartbreaking reality check when viewers remember that Alaska no longer looks like the green utopia the movie portrays it as. Strategically dark visuals, such as hazy snow and blizzards, illuminate the hardships Buck endures in the first half of the movie. When Buck and John meet, the seasons change, and the plants blossom in a gorgeously bright contrast that successfully highlights the positive change for the two characters.
The film’s writing is mostly well done, although there are a few plot decisions that seem questionable. In the beginning, several scenes where Buck is beaten or harmed seem too intense for the young target audience. Later, as Buck discovers his wild side, he is followed by a large wolf that represents his true nature as a dog. For most of the film, however, it’s unclear if the wolf represents something evil. However, concluding scenes tie together any potential loose ends and ultimately create a strong, unique narrative.
Overall, “The Call of the Wild” is a successfully composed story of the friendship between two unlikely friends. With an engaging plot and pleasing visuals, the movie is an entertaining watch and certainly proves why dogs are called man’s best friend.
3.5 CGI dogs out of 5