I was against Into the Wild the instant it's main character (named Alexander Supertramp, naturally) decided that he couldn't successfully drop out of society unless he burned all of his money. That one gesture tipped me off that this was not going to be a story about a free spirit, this was going to be a story about a privileged jerkoff acting recklessly out of petulance. (Specifically, the man born Christopher McCandless is acting out because he has daddy issues.)
And sure enough, the rest of the movie bore that early prediction out. Supertramp is the sort of juvenile dreamer who can’t fathom how people could degrade themselves by working day jobs and drinking in wine bars with their friends at night… But that’s a really simplistic understanding of the way most people live, and those scenes of him turning his nose up at society (all the while knowing that Daddy could come bail him out if he ever got in trouble) were infuriating. I’m all for self exploration but I'm the child of two parents who had to work hard to get by and as such I’m way more into knowing the value of a hard-earned buck / having a back-up plan.
Furthermore, all of the montages of Supertramp being “free” on the open road might have been nicely photographed, but they were also really condescending towards people like me who manage to balance being the steward of their own destiny with even a small amount of inter-personal responsibility. You can enjoy rafting on an open river without having to commit to the full time life of a hobo who is only out for number one.
Stories about wandering types like this face a fundamental problem: they want to romanticize something that’s honestly not very romantic. A person who is willing to spend years of their life hitchhiking to nowhere all by themselves is a person who is stubborn, self-isolating and (probably) physically filthy. And while their stories might seem uplifting at the outset they never have good endings: either the “free spirit” gives up the ghost and rejoins society, or they martyr themselves under a false idea of freedom, or they end up permanently cutting themselves off from human contact – i.e., they are destined to end up as a sell out, a corpse, or a crank, none of which are ultimately that appealing. (Spoiler alert: Supertramp ends up dying after he eats some inedible plants he finds in the wild – which might be the most spiritually “romantic” / least physically pleasant ending possible for his story.)
Also: while I'm bitching about the ending... You took two and a half hours to tell me that trying to spend a winter surviving off of random bush-berries in arctic temperatures is a bad idea? Fuckin' A man I already knew that! You don't have to ramble at me for 150 minutes when you already had me at hello!
This sort of paean to free-spiritedness almost always starts as an attack on society, meanders interminably, and then ultimately ends up reaffirming the most bourgeois definition of society. Into the Wild’s conclusion basically implies that trying to be free is inevitably self-defeating, but the truth is that there are ways you can maximize your personal autonomy that won't cause you to end up as an emaciated Supertramp-sicle in the middle of a frozen forest. Freedom is not an either / or proposition where you are either maximally independent or you are a slave to a corrupt and deadening capitalist system; it is a spectrum of shades-of-grey choices and pretending otherwise is just sophomoric and bogus.
But enough about this pile of sub-Kerouacian horseshit. I need to get back to actually doing some work at my day job so I can keep earning money that I will use to subsidize my hobbies, interests and life expenses, because I am a goddamned adult who has figured out a way to simultaneously juggle being independent, practical and responsible. You know, like most fucking people.
Winner: Fuck This Movie
PS: Hey Alexander Supertramp: if you end up getting reincarnated and you decide to head back towards Alaska for round two you should try harder to die via bear attack - that would be a grislier way to die, but it would be a lot more dramatically dynamic than dying via a bunch of bad berries. Fuck, that's such a boring-ass way to cap off a two and a half our wankfest, you know?