Call of the Wild, a must-watch movie for animal lovers

Harrison Ford plays John Thornton, a hermit who embarks on an adventure with his newfound friend, a dog named Buck. (20th Century pic)

It can be quite hard to imagine that your dog, be they a small Chihuahua or a giant hound, are all descended from wild and fearsome wolves.

Yet, remnants of this lupine heritage still remain in man’s best friend and the primitive instincts and memories of their wild ancestors are invaluable when it comes to surviving the dangerous world.

The Call of the Wild tells the tale of one such dog who has to learn to adapt quickly after being torn away from his comfortable, civilised life and thrown into the cold wilderness.

Based on Jack London’s novel of the same name, The Call of the Wild centres around Buck, a St Bernard/Scotch Collie dog stolen from his California home and delivered to the Yukon during the Klondike gold rush.

After being mistreated by a cruel owner, he is rescued and cared for by a lone frontiersman named John Thornton, played by Harrison Ford.

With Buck being the centrepiece of the film, it must be said that it is a rather strange creative decision to rely heavily on CGI for his character.

The CGI isn’t bad per se, and Buck can look incredibly realistic at times, but rather unreal in others.

While it is true that CGI helps to render him more expressive and allow more creative stunts to be executed, there are many shots throughout the film where a real dog could have been used instead.

It will be hard to convince the audience at any point of the movie that they are looking at a real dog.

Thankfully, this does not really take away from the fact that Buck is still a likeable character who will undoubtedly still gain one’s sympathy.

With his boundless energy and good spirit, it is hard not to like Buck or be invested in where his journeys will take him.

Strangely enough, the landscapes that are included in the movie are breathtakingly beautiful and it’s hard to figure out if they are also digitally created or an actual untouched wilderness.

Kidnapped from his comfortable California home, Buck ends up serving for a time on a dog sled delivery team. (20th Century pic)

Sweeping shots of the Yukon Valley’s greenery and pristine streams flowing down from the mountains almost serve as a tourism advertisement of sorts.

It should also be noted that while Harrison Ford’s face is plastered onto posters and featured heavily in trailers, his actual in-movie presence is only limited to the second half of the film, with a few brief appearances early on.

This is no doubt to capitalise on his name recognition, which is understandable.

Thankfully, he does appear to be invested in his role and actually takes extra care to portray a man who has lost much and seems to be now content with drifting along with where life takes him.

However, just because Thornton’s drowning his sorrows in alcohol doesn’t mean he’s any less a good person and he steps in to protect and care for Buck with nothing to gain for himself.

Special mention should also be made of Omar Sy, who plays the enthusiastic deliveryman, Perrault.

Given that he’s Buck’s first owner upon his arrival in the Yukon, he perfectly portrays an enthusiastic and well-meaning fellow who genuinely cares for each member of his sled dog team.

The event that results in a separation between him and Buck and his fellow dogs is heart-breaking to say the least, and this is worsened by the fact that he will be succeeded by a far crueller and more callous owner.

Speaking of this cruel owner, Dan Stevens plays the cheesy character who is unashamedly the moustache-twirling villain of the story.

If he had started giving an evil cackle and rubbing his hands together, it wouldn’t be far-fetched to think that he accidentally showed up on the wrong set.

While the film is not completely loyal to the book, it still makes for a good, pretty and entertaining family film that will likely pull at the heartstrings of animal lovers.

With solid action and likeable characters, the film comes off as a good solid charming piece of cinema.