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WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE Has A New Release Date! But... What Will We See?

Hey, everyone. ”Moriarty” here. That’s the question right now. We have a very impassioned letter that showed up in the Geek Headquarters mailbox recently that seems like the perfect companion piece for the announcement (which I'd link you to, except is a shitshow that rarely works right) that Warner will release the film in October of 2009. I’m sure I’ll be able to weigh in on my own feelings about this one at some point, and I can tell you that passions are running high on all sides about what form this film will finally take. For now, I’ll leave you with the heartfelt words of one first-time spy, moved to finally send us something because of just how strongly he feels about what he’s seen:

Harry, I’m writing to you tonight out of desperation. I heard through the grapevine that Spike Jonze’s Where the Wild Things Are is in danger of being recast, rewritten, and reshot. Having seen an early cut in December, all I can say is I’m beside myself with shock and dismay at this news. But before we delve any further into that, I feel I should explain why this is the most terrible news I’ve heard since Michael Bay created Platinum Dunes. I’m afraid that to do so, I must take you into spoiler territory… I really can’t begin to tell you how much I love this film. Even in its most incomplete form, WTWTA is startlingly dark, adult and deep, but it’s also the most accurate depiction of childhood and that moment where we begin to lose our naïve thoughtless innocence that I’ve ever seen. Take, for example, Carroll, the WT voiced by James Gandolfini. He’s both Max’s best friend and a jealous, petty, violent monster. It’s positively heart-wrenching and scary to watch, but at the same time it’s completely understandable because he’s hurt and acting out because he’s losing touch with his sister who’s outgrowing him, much like Max’s sister back in the real world. I’m sure you’ve seen the test clip by now, the one with the line “Yeah, robots are the best.” The one where the WT, Carroll, simply turns and walks away from Max, his heart breaking on the screen. That’s pretty much how this movie in a nutshell—in the most wonderful way possible. That one simple bit, how a child can say something so seemingly innocent without thinking, about how a simple statement can have devastating effects we’re almost completely unaware of—or could possible anticipate—is central to the story. Max, according to reports, is considered “unlikable” by the studio execs handling this movie. I don’t see that at all. Max is a lonely, frustrated child whose older sister has no time for him and neither does his single mother. He wants what every child wants: to be loved, paid attention to, understood, and he’s not getting that and he’s too young to really know how to get what he wants—he lacks the ability to articulate those feelings because, on some unconscious level, he doesn’t really understand them yet. He does what all creatures do when they’re angry and frustrated: he lashes out. Then he runs away to the world of the Wild Things. The Wild Things are wonderful because they’re so perfectly a product of Max’s imagination. They talk like him and they understand him without explanation. Max runs away after his mother yells at him for soaking his sister’s bedroom—an act of retaliation against her because she let her friends bully him. “You could have caused permanent damage to the floorboards!” his mother shouts. Later, while talking to one of the WTs before bed, Max explains why he ran away. “I caused permanent damage.” He doesn’t need to explain any further—his new friend understands. At the same time, the WTs become a valuable learning tool for Max. They declare him their king, which seems like a pretty neat idea. But WTs, like people, need a leader who takes care of them. Max tries his best to lead, but what does he know? He’s just a kid and he makes lousy choices that upset and in some cases physically harm his new friends. To me, this is Max beginning to understand one of the most important lessons of childhood: he’s not the only person in the world who matters and that life is equally lonely, hard, and painful for everyone around him. He really gets a taste of what it must be like to be a grownup and have to worry about other people (only in this case there’s always that chance that they will eat him if he screws up too badly). The WTs also embody his personal relationships among themselves: there’s a brother/sister duo, a mother & son, an angry and frustrated one and another who’s so shy that he only speaks to Max once. By allowing him to see mirror images of his personal relationships/aspects of his personality, the WTs are allowing him the opportunity to safely come to terms with his own issues. The movie ends with him coming home and hugging his mother. That’s it. No big conversation about where he’s been or what he’s done. Just a hug. “I get it now/I’m sorry/its okay/I love you” it’s all there in that one moment. Needless to say, this isn’t a movie for children—it’s a movie about childhood and the first fleeting moments where you start to become aware of the world around you and realize you’re not the center of the universe. This is a movie for parents to share with their children when they get older, when they’re dealing with these same feelings of being hurt and lonely and unloved and misunderstood. This is a movie for old friends to watch together, to remind them of their childhood in a much more profound way than simply by geeking out about days past, movies we loved and our favorite toys (which it seems are now coming back as movies). This is one of those rare timeless movies that people will revisit again and again and again throughout their life, each time finding something different to love. This movie is Fred Savage’s grandfather saying “As you wish” at the end of The Princess Bride. This movie is the look Susan gives to 12-year-old Josh as he walks away at the end of Big. This movie is River Phoenix fading away at the end of Stand by Me. This movie is important and special. Spike made this movie for us. We have to save it. I’m writing to you tonight because I think you might be the only person in the world who understands where I’m coming from and because I want you to understand that we can’t let this film slip away. I’ve read your site for so long that I feel like we could almost be friends. While I sometimes disagree with your reviews (Hatchet), I have a deep admiration for your ability to approach every film you watch with and open mind and an open heart. There’s always a moment or two in your writing where I marvel at how your mind operates—your King Kong review comes to mind. The only thing I remember is a comment you made about the brontosaurus stampede and how tragic it was that these magnificent creatures are going to die slowly at the hands of time and the teeth of predators in a crumpled broken heap. I read that before seeing the movie; when I did see it, I was saddened by that scene because I couldn’t get the imagery of “two weeks later after the boat is gone” out of my head. It’s for little things like this that you need to see WTWTA. Please, Harry, help me save this movie from becoming The Cat in the Hat. I don’t know where to begin. Even some advice—anything—would be helpful. I don’t want to be just another wackjob with an online petition. This needs to be more than that. This needs to be a united front: movie geeks, fanboys, cinephiles and anyone else who is as starved and desperate for the return of truly magical storytelling. This is that return. We can’t let it slip through our fingers. Even if I can’t change the cinematic world, I would love to at the very least scream loud enough so that Spike & Dave Eggars and company hear us and know that we support them even if the studio does not. I can’t imagine how hard it must be to make such a deeply personal film and have it shredded for the sake of slapping some cartoon monsters on lunch boxes. If I can, in any way, make it known to them that they (just like Max) aren’t alone, I’ll consider this at the very least a bittersweet victory. I love the work of these men dearly and I can’t bear to think of how discouraging this must be on both a professional and a creative level. I want them to continue to challenge and entertain me, and I want them to know it. Please, help me try and make a difference. For all of us. Help me Obi-Geek Kenobi, you’re my only hope. Sincerely, Cinemaniac1979
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