The Call of the Wild Explained: What’s Up With the Ending?

Pros: Harrison Ford; voice-over narrator; Nice picture; intense plot; Contrary to expectations, you quickly get used to the CGI dog Cons: the writers remove the most brutal moments of the story to soften the story of The Call of the Wild

Genre drama, adventure
Director Chris Sanders
Cast: Harrison Ford (John Thornton), Terry Notary (Buck), Kara G (Francois), Omar Sy (Perrault), Karen Gillan (Mercedes), Dan Stevens (Hal), Bradley Whitford (Judge Miller), Wes Brown (Cop ), Colin Woodell (Charles), Alex Solovitz (Minner), etc.
Companies 3 Arts Entertainment, 20th Century Studios
Year of release 2020
IMDb website

Like Jack London’s work, the film takes place in the late 1890s. The central character of the film is Buck, a large, long-haired dog who lives in the house of a wealthy judge. It was precisely these large and strong dogs that the demand grew after people from all over the world rushed to look for gold in northern Canada. This became the reason for the kidnapping of Buck, accustomed to a pampered life, who for the first time faces cruelty from a person. Soon the dog will be sold to a new owner, and he, doing hard work, will prove himself in unexpected ways.

Since the main events of the film unfold in the Yukon territory, snow-capped mountain peaks and icy rivers often flash in the frame. Their beauty at night is emphasized by the northern lights, which further distances Buck from the civilized world to which he is accustomed. Even if some of this mesmerizing picture is created using computer graphics, the film’s cinematographer Janusz Kaminski (Steven Spielberg’s regular cinematographer, who won two Oscars) finds the right angles that reveal the majesty of nature with impressive force.


Landscapes do not appear on the screen right away; first there is an introduction to Buck, whom the filmmakers decided to make in CGI. On the set, Buck was played by actor Terry Notary, whose emotions were combined with the appearance of a dog adopted from a shelter that underwent a digital scan. This is how a huge dog appeared in the film, a mixture of a St. Bernard and a Scottish Shepherd, whose eyes react vividly to what is happening. At first it seems that it will be difficult to get used to an unreal four-legged animal, but the dog moves quite nimbly, and its appearance does not distract from other details of the film.


Thanks to the writers for not thinking of making the dog talk (the concept of Lady and the Tramp or The Lion King would definitely not have worked here). Instead, the narrator is the character of John Thornton (Harrison Ford), who helps understand how Buck is feeling.


It is interesting that John Thornton becomes somewhat softer in the film; he has a special reason for mutual understanding with the dog. Other characters also undergo some transformations in the film, for example, postal service couriers Francois and Perrault. One of them turns into a female character (apparently just for the sake of variety in the story), and the second takes on more good-natured character traits.


The film adaptation softens a few more episodes, avoiding the violent scenes described by Jack London. This is quite expected from The Walt Disney Company, which has launched a rebranding of 20th Century Fox (by the way, “The Call of the Wild” will be the first film in the credits of which the film studio will be listed as 20th Century Studios). Fortunately, the focus on the family viewing format does not spoil the main message of the story; rather, it makes it a little more fabulous due to the absence of unnecessarily harsh moments.


Using an adapted script, director Chris Sanders (who worked on Lilo & Stitch and How to Train Your Dragon) creates a picture that is reminiscent of a cartoon adventure in its mood. For Sanders, everything that happens works according to a successful formula: events rivet you to the screen, forcing you to worry about the heroes, and the central characters inspire, arousing sympathy with their friendship.


No matter how the director thought about the success of the film, there is a possibility that without the participation of Harrison Ford, who has been embarking on film adventures for years, The Call of the Wild might not have worked. Fortunately, Ford agreed to film, adding his acting charm to the film. It is unknown how long he interacted with the artist portraying the dog, but in the final version of the film the rapport with Buck seems quite natural.


“The Call of the Wild” is a good family film, filled with adventure, which makes you sympathetic to the four-legged character. But if CGI animals annoy you, you might want to watch Togo.

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