Spike Jonze’s moody feature film adaptation of Maurice Sendak’s Where The Wild Things Are finally hits theaters this Friday, and although we’ve heard from the child star Max Records, who said the film’s appropriateness for children really “depends on the kid,” Jonze himself has a bit more to say about the tone of this film he’s worked on for the last two years.
“We were just trying to make a movie that feels true to what it feels like, at times, to be 9 years old,” Jonze said. “I think, as you’re growing up, your emotions are just as deep as they are when you’re an adult. You’re ability to feel lonely, longing, confused or angry are just as deep. We don’t feel things more as we get older. We just have a better understanding of how to navigate those feelings, and a better sense of how to navigate our relationships and separate our emotions from them. I also don’t think of this as a dark movie. It has moments that are intense, for sure.”
Most kids’ movies are bright and shiny and full of spastic slapstick motion, but this film definitely isn’t, and people are wondering why. “We wanted to take this 9-year-old seriously,” Jonze responded. “So if he’s going to imagine that he’s going to a place, it’s not going to be some fantasy version of it. For me, it just connected more to really being there with these wild animals, in this forest and on these beaches, with sand and dirt and leaves in their hair, and have that level of reality to it. It makes it more dangerous and, in a way, more exciting because you’re really there. The whole movie is shot from Max’s point of view, where you’re discovering it with him. Every scene in the movie is from Max’s point of view. We also tried to give it its wonder where it was relevant to the story, like when Max wakes up in Carol’s arms, and he’s carrying him through this beautiful forest with leaves falling everywhere. Those moments have their place, where it’s hopefully more wondrous or spectacular.”
“We just tried to keep that spirit of not over-thinking it too much,” he insists. “My other movies are much more analytical or cerebral films. With this one, because the main character was 9, I wanted to turn that part of my brain off and not approach it so cerebrally.”
That approach shows when Jonze is asked what message people should learn from the finished product. “I don’t know what you should take away from it,” Jonze admits. “I think anybody can take away whatever they feel connected to or not connected to in the movie. The one thing I hope is that there would be some conversations, and that a parent might actually be able to talk to their kid in a different way and ask their kid what they think, and not worry about how they’re going to turn out, but be curious as to who they are.”