Odd and beautiful adaptation of the Maurice Sendak classic finally debuts
I'm sure by now you've seen the trailer. It's one of my personal favorite trailers in recent memory, because it does what I feel like a great trailer should do... it teases. It gives you a taste, but it doesn't really give anything away.
Spike Jonze has taken a long and undeniably difficult road to get to this morning and, to be fair, so has Warner Bros. This is an $80 million film from the director of "Being John Malkovich" and "Adaptation." Not exactly a track record that makes a studio think "giant box-office guarantee." Spike's film, which I saw in rough form many many months ago, is beautiful and stark and sad and scary. It's a great film, I think, but not an easy film. I've spoken to Spike at length about the making of the film.
And today... finally... at the beginning of the Warner Bros. presentation in Hall H that kicked off the day, Spike and Warner Bros. premiered footage from the film, far more than the trailer. For me, the biggest question mark of the movie was answered conclusively today, and I can say now with all confidence... "Where The Wild Things Are" is going to be a very special movie. And the characters, the Wild Things themselves, are gloriously, amazingly alive.
Maurice Sendak appeared with Spike in a special reel that was shown at the start of the panel, and listening to him talk about how his book was fairly reviled when it came out, how his own family didn't like the book at first, and it wasn't until a few years later that the most important group of critics in literature finally weighed in on the book... the librarians. They were the ones who saw that children didn't just read the book... they internalized it. It became part of how they processed the world. It was Sendak who whispered in Spike's ear, "Make it dangerous," and he did. His film is not a safe piece of merchandising bait. It's very somber, and it's very strange, and it's conceptually quite bold, maybe as bold as either of his Kaufman collaborations.
Max Records, the boy who plays Max in the film, came on after the Sendak/Jonze film and then introduced the footage. He professed to being nervous enough to need to read the notes on his hand. He explained that he had just recently seen Maurice who said to pass along a very sweet message to the Comic-Con crowd:
"I really like this movie, and I hope they like it, because if they don't, they can all go straight to Hell."
[more after the jump]