‘The Call of the Wild’ (2020).
The author’s, of course, entirely subjective review of a recent dog movie from director Chris Sanders and Harrison Ford in the human lead, which is, however, clearly outshone by the animated dog Buck.
Feel free to add your own thoughts on this in the comments!
The Call of the Wild
‘The Call of the Wild’ was created in the USA in 2020, starring Harrison Ford, and is based on the 1903 novel of the same name by Jack London.
The film is set at the time of the Klondike gold rush in the 1890s and the real star is the lovingly animated, large, gentle, spoiled Bernadine-Scotch Collie dog named Buck.
Although all the animals are animated, it’s not so easy to figure out, and you have to look very closely to see this. Since the film is fairly closely based on the book, and since the story is told mainly from the dog’s point of view, there is a certain amount of ‘humanization’ that can’t be denied, and his facial expressions are mostly heartfelt in all situations.
The only way to tell the story in this way was to use 3D computer graphics for the animals. This also avoided the abuse and torture of real animals, which has often happened in film and one of the most recent examples is the discredited company Birds & Animals Unlimited, which otherwise provides such for filming.
By the way, the author Jack London, who wrote the novel, was himself a participant in the Klondike Gold Rush.
At the beginning of the movie, the spoiled St. Bernard Scotch Collie named Buck lives happily and contentedly with his master, Judge Miller (Bradley Whitford), in Santa Clara, California.
But since in the meantime the great gold rush has broken out in the Yukon region in Alaska, and strong sled dogs are wanted there for a lot of money, he is kidnapped one night by unpleasant fellows who have become aware of him.
Eventually he finds himself on a ship bound for Alaska, where he is threatened and beaten by a crew member with a club. Arriving in the strange environment, Buck is irritated by the snow he doesn’t know, runs away and finds the harmonica lost by Harrison Ford (in the movie ‘John Thornton’), which he brings back to him. This is his first contact with him.
Buck is then sold to Perrault (Omar Sy) and his assistant Francoise (Cara Gee) as an extra dog for their dog sled, with which they bring letters and mail across the Yukon. In doing so, Perrault hopes that this time he can make the long trip to the post office before the deadline with the help of the large and powerful St. Bernard Scotch collie. Buck is now introduced to the other sled dogs in his new pack, which is led by the vicious and dominant husky ‘Spitz’.
Despite some initial difficulties with his new task, Buck eventually proves himself and gains the respect and trust of Perrault, Francoise and the other sled dogs. In the process, he even rescues Francoise after she breaks into the ice in a frozen lake. This, of course, makes the pack leader Spitz even more jealous.
Buck now regularly appears at important events spiritual visions in the form of a black wolf, which accompany him on his journey into the unknown and give him valuable clues.
For fun and frolic, Buck runs after a rabbit one night, with the pack following him. After cornering it, however, he lets it go. At that moment, Spitz shows up, grabs and kills the rabbit, and begins a deadly battle with Buck for pack leadership. The good-natured Buck can barely hold his own and only puts up real resistance when the pack calls him out on it. Now he wrestles Spitz down and thus takes over the leadership of the pack, whereupon the husky goes into hiding in the wilderness.
After Perrault cannot find his lead dog Spitz the next morning, he has to make Buck the leader over the dog sled after persistent refusal of the other pack members. In doing so, he makes the right decision, because thanks to Buck’s strength and speed, the mail sled reaches its destination on time.
Shortly before the return journey Buck meets Thornton again, who somewhat belatedly wants to give Perrault a letter to his ex-wife, in which he wants to express to her his thoughts and feelings about their common, deceased son. At first Perrault doesn’t want to accept the late letter, but Buck grabs it and takes it with him.
Upon returning, however, Perrault learns that his mail route is being replaced by a telegraph line and that he must sell the dogs and return.
Some time later, a vicious and inexperienced soldier of fortune named Hal (Dan Stevens) acquires the pack with Buck in order to search with them and his spoiled appendage for a rich vein of gold, which is making the rounds as a rumor. He makes the pack work to exhaustion with an unsuitable, overloaded sled in bad weather and equally unsuitable terrain.
Finally, the dog sled are to cross an ice sheet of a body of water that is already unsafe due to the thaw. When Buck doesn’t want to go on, Hal threatens to shoot him. At that moment, Thornton shows up, having already sensed evil in the sled’s departure. He saves Buck from Hal, brings him back and in his cabin where the dog recovers.
Some time later, Hal returns alone and meets Thornton at the saloon, where he reveals to him that the dogs have run off with all his possessions. When Buck arrives there looking for Thornton and there is an altercation between the two men, he attacks Hal. Hal is then thrown out of the saloon by the sheriff.
Back at his cabin, Thornton decides to live his dead son’s dreams and pulls out a map of him from which he wanted to explore a route into the wilderness that was not yet charted anywhere. Thornton and Buck travel first by canoe, then on foot, into the unexplored Alaskan wilderness.
There they come across an old cabin in a valley with a small river and settle in. In the process, Thornton discovers that the old rumor of the huge gold find is true as he begins prospecting in the riverbed. At the same time, Buck meets a white she-wolf and becomes more and more attracted to her.
Every day Buck now runs into the woods and only returns to Thornton around dusk with freshly caught prey, which he has hunted down with the wolf pack. Buck is increasingly torn between his previous life as a domesticated dog and that of the free wolves, to which the white she-wolf belongs.
Having found a sufficient amount of gold, Thornton is convinced he must return home. He makes it clear to Buck that he wants to leave the next morning and say goodbye to Buck, who is to remain in his new freedom. Buck then runs into the woods in discord and sleeps with the white she-wolf.
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In the meantime, however, Hal is out for revenge and, finding the Yukon map left behind in Thornton’s cabin, suspects that the latter knows the location of the gold treasure. Shortly before Thornton’s departure, he finds him in the valley and shoots him. At this moment Buck returns from the woods, overcomes his previous fear of a club and jumps at Hal, who in the process falls into the previously ignited cabin and burns to death.
The mortally wounded Thornton makes it clear to Buck that he is now to live his own life and reassures him with his last words, ‘It’s okay, boy. You’re home.’
Buck returns to the forest after Thornton’s death, mates with the white she-wolf, and leads his own pack when he had answered the ‘call of the wild’.
This movie is available here: