Culture Vulture has a look at the Dave Eggers and Spike Jonze penned screenplay for the 2008 release of Where the Wild Things Are, based on the classic children’s novel by Maurice Sendak.
Eggers has been one of the few literary rock stars of the past decade and Spike Jonze really doesn’t need to whip out his indie/hipster/scenester/cool kids badge anytime soon. He’s earned enough between his vidoes and the last two movies he’s directed.
But if there are two people in this world with the visual language (Jonze has that in bunches) and the wonderment of childhood (pick up any Eggers book and it’s easy to see his fascination with childhood) to successfully adapt this book, then these two guys are it.
Strange that there hasn’t been more coverage/leakage of this film at this point. So what does Culture Vulture think of the script?
In transforming the 338-word story of Where the Wild Things Are into a 111-page screenplay, Eggers and Jonze have fleshed out the story not, unexpectedly, with wild plot developments, and not, thankfully, with densely packed pop-fiction references. Instead Where the Wild Things Are is filled with richly imagined psychological detail, and the screenplay for this live-action film simply becomes a longer and more moving version of what Maurice Sendak’s book has always been at heart: a book about a lonely boy leaving the emotional terrain of boyhood behind.
Max, the hero of Wild Things, is now an 8-year-old with an absent father, an older sister who’s drifting away from him, a mother whose personal and job concerns leave her little time or energy for the rambunctious boy she dearly loves. Eggers and Jonze ? mostly, we suspect, Eggers ? touchingly sketch this troubled family unit and carefully track the rising frustration and alarm Max feels as his world becomes darker and more unhappy, until, on page 21, he runs away, climbs aboard a boat, and sails to the island of the Wild Things.
There Jonze’s influence begins to be felt, as the enormous creatures ? with names like Carol, Alexander, and K.W. ? look to Max as their King, and in a series of marvelous adventures, wrestle tornadoes, eat mud, and tame hawks. Always, though, there’s a subtle undercurrent of menace, and it becomes clear that while spinning a yarn, Jonze and Eggers are also taking us on a tour of Max’s psyche, as he works out so many of the issues that plague his young life. But any time the drama threatens to overcome the story’s wonder, along comes another visual cherry bomb to shake things up: a tiny model of a city with rivers for streets; a pile of Wild Things, wiggling and wet, with Max sleeping against them; Max’s final hiding place, and how he gets out. We won’t give too much more away, because the pleasures of this screenplay are in its moment-to-moment details and discoveries.
Interesting, no? Sounds like they’ve done a good job. If this and the early photo that leaked is any indication, then this will certainly be one of the more enjoyable movies of next year.