Holy trilogy of CGI animal movies of last few months has been completed as The Call Of The Wild joins the ranks of The Lion King remake and Cats. It’s not a remarkably high barrier but it might just edge out the others to emerge as the pack leader, separating from them by being actually somewhat emotionally available. Directed by Chris Sanders (known for How To Train Your Dragon) and written by Michael Green (known for Logan) based on the book by Jack London, it shifts between being a voracious adventure film and a cute buddy comedy.
The film really only picks up when Buck (dog who is the main character) is united with John Thornton (played by Harrison Ford). Even though their journey starts about an hour in since they only have couple run-ins before that, there is immediately the kind of companionship that these movies need to have in order to tell a compelling story. Whether the scene requires Ford to act against a mo-cap suited man or nothing, he gets the most out of the material. I actually would’ve loved to see more of him during the first hour because the character seems deeply flawed and broken so there might’ve been interesting cinematic liberties you could’ve taken. Apparently though everything is fairly faithful to the source material. The story does get better as it goes on and Buck gets closer to wilderness.
While the last third gets pretty close to beautiful storytelling, first two thirds really make it all seem disorganised. There is some awful attempts at comedy in the beginning where good characters, Perrault (Omar Sy) and Françoise (Cara Gee), are completely wasted. After that Buck goes to Hal (Dan Stevens), annoyingly generic, moustache-twirling villain. At this point the movie tries to go darker by covering animal abuse but does it so poorly. Overall the movie just feels artificial. Visual effects make the production design seem underwhelming and you never get immersed so you’d feel like that you’re in Yukon. Nothing seems freezing cold or dangerous and the animals feel like movable cardboard cutouts. Usually VFX is used to fill out space or create something meaningful for the story so now that everything feels like a green screen or a dog in a mobile game, it rings hollow.
Smileys: Harrison Ford
Frowneys: Tone, VFX
The Call Of The Wild seems lost in the woods after not striking gold.