Where the Wild Things Are is one of those movies that you just wonder how it can be a movie. The book that inspired it doesn't even have a dozen sentences, so how can it be made into a major motion picture? I was really eager to see how this all played out (so eager that my girlfriend and I have been working on a Max style wolf suit for her Halloween costume). Thus, a midnight showing was in order.
If you've read any of the reviews of it one of the things they always say is this isn't a typical movie. One review I saw before the movie, said it abandoned the typical idea of a story arc. I don't think that's entirely true. There's definitely the exposition, rising action, a (weak) climax, and then an ending.
Another notable feature of most reviews is that, although the book was intended as a children's book, the movie isn't for children. It's about being a child. Although I'd say this theme is present in the original book (hidden as the satisfaction of knowing that your family is always your family and you'll have a proverbial hot supper waiting for you), the idea of what it means to be an adolescent child is much more deeply explored.
One of the first childhood themes that's explored is the strange notion of fun children have at play violence. In the "real world" it's Max having a snowball fight with his sister and her friends, which is all well and good. Until they crush his igloo. In the "wild things world", it's throwing dirt clods at one another's heads. It's fun until someone hits someone else too hard at which point there's a tense scene followed by some somber reflection. The movie doesn't really say that such playing is bad, but makes the definite point that it's easy to go over the line. Where that line is, it implies, is different for each person and can change on a whim.
Another topic that's hit is the desire for companions. In the real world, Max longs to have the friend that he (apparently) used to have in his older sister, before she started hanging out with other friends. Additionally, this movie makes Max's mother out as a single mother seeing new men which also sets Max off. In Wild Thing Land, one of the wild things is hurt by his friend leaving him as well. As Max tries to use his regal status to patch up a relationship between two of the wild things (Carol and KW), he realizes that it's silly of them to expect the other to "belong" solely to them. While we'd prefer it, it's not something we can always control.
Control is the other major theme this film seemed to touch on. While Max is at school, his teacher tells him that one day, the Sun will die and swallow up the Earth. Of course, that only matters if we don't kill ourselves off from global warming, nuclear wars, pollution, or disease. Max doesn't seem to think too much about this, but mentions it to his wild thing foil (Carol). Later, Carol remarks that, on top of all the other things he has to worry about, now he has to worry about the Sun dying. ARGH! The absurdity of worrying about such things, is highlighted, and ever so subtly, its implied that we should learn to accept the things we cannot change.
But enough about all the themes. Regardless of whether or not you're thinking about it, this movie has a lot of emotion to it. The acting is absolutely top notch. Humor is extremely well woven in and this film has some absolutely wonderful lines ("He's a boy pretending to be a wolf pretending to be a king").
It's certainly a movie I'll be buying once it's out.