The Call of the Wild Movie Review
Updated: May 5
Call of the Wild is distributed by 20th Century Studios and will be released in the US on February 21st, 2020
Call of the Wild was directed by Chris Sanders, produced by James Mangold, and stars Harrison Ford, Dan Stevens, Omar Sy, Karen Gillan, and a whole lot of CGI. The film centers around a surprisingly intelligent dog named Buck as he moves through his life in search of his purpose. It is based on the classic book written by Jack London.
I first saw the trailer for the movie back in November, and it looked horrible to me. It was so blatantly obvious that Buck wasn't actually there, and like most computer-generated characters, it was the only thing I was able to focus on. I tried to go in with an open mind, and see if they could find a way to blend the dog in just enough for me to get past it. From 5 minutes in, I completely understood why they made the choice to digitally create Buck and not use an actual dog. This was a very demanding role that no real animal could create, no matter how much training they received. The character is very cartoonish in the way it moves, and all the stunts would have been far too dangerous for anything other than what they did.
By far the strongest aspect of the movie is the story. As it was adapted from a beloved novel, I expected nothing less than a polished tale with strong, developed characters. Sanders didn't disappoint in this aspect and did a great job of creating a fun adventure with people (and animals) you actually care deeply about. It's a story that's been told time and time again, but there are some twists that I didn't actually expect. It does a great job of conveying the journey Buck goes on, and you can tell how he changes as a being through each stage. What surprised me the most was how much heart this movie has. By the end, I was so attached to the characters that I genuinely cared about what they did and what happened to them, which speaks volumes about their development.
However, the largest flaw of Call of the Wild is the visual effects. Aside from Buck himself, who actually doesn't look too bad after a few minutes of the runtime, it seems like the CGI was thrown in without too much care. The worst offender was the compositing. Environments that should have looked layered, instead seemed flat and cardboard-like, which made the green screening obvious.
Harrison Ford was phenomenal in the role, sans a couple of moments. He had great charisma with a character that wasn't actually there, and with it being an effects-heavy film, he convinces you that the places you're seeing are real. Omar Sy was another highlight, playing an inspiring mailman who owns a dog sledding team. He had great chemistry with Karen Gillan, who was his partner.