Into the Wild begins with a quote from Lord Byron that speaks about nature. The quote is very fitting for the movie with the quote speaking about loving nature more than loving man. The movie then moves into a close up of a woman’s face as she springs up from her sleep, in what seems like a bad dream. She says something about seeing “him” to her husband who tries to comfort her. The movie then transitions into scenes of nature that we come to learn is in Fairbanks, Alaska as yellow words come across the screen. The words seem to be a letter to someone, as if the man is speaking to someone directly. A high camera angle shows a car pulling up into the middle of nowhere and zooms in on a man exiting the car and heading out into the wilderness. This man then finds an old, abandoned Alaskan transit bus out in the wild and decides to make a home out of it. Up until this point, the viewer has no idea what the woman has to do with the man that we are watching, but it is easy to assume that she was referring to this man when she spoke of her dream.
We find out that the woman is the mother of the man in the next part of the movie, as we see her and her husband at a college graduation. They call the name of Christopher McCandless and we see the same man from earlier, only much more clean cut and younger. We then hear this man narrating a poem to his sister as they are on their way to lunch with the family. The poem he is reading is stating that the parents should not have met and when his sister asks about it, he says that it could fit for either of them. This is a foreshadowing of what we will later learn about Christopher’s parents’ relationship.
Although his parents want him to further his education and tell him they will help him with the cost of going to Harvard Law, Chris decides he would rather go out into the wild and leave everyone behind. The viewer sees him donating all of his savings to charity, while we hear his sister narrating. His sister speaks of Chris never liking the material possessions that his parents have always had.
The movie continues through Chris’ travels, where he meets many new people. He comes upon a hippie couple that lives out of a camper and stays with them for a while. He meets a girl that develops feelings for him and works in a grain elevator for a man named Wayne. He also comes across a foreign couple while canoeing through a river and meets an old man on his last portion of his journey before going to his final destination: Alaska. Although he cares for each of these people, he leaves them each, in turn, to continue towards his final goal. The movie is a serious of flashbacks, where the real time is Chris in Alaska surviving on his own and the flashbacks are his journey up to where he is. During this journey he gives himself a new name, Alex Supertramp, and only gives this name to the people he meets. After eating some poisonous berries out in Alaska, Chris becomes very ill and can no longer eat. He becomes increasingly skinny until he gets to the point of death. The viewer sees a sign saying that he lived a happy life and he signs it with his real name. The final scene of the movie is a close up on Chris’ face as he dies and then zooms out to the surrounding area above the bus.
Into the Wild demonstrates how one can love the people around him, but still love nature more. Chris had many opportunities to stay with people he cared about (including his sister who narrates throughout the whole movie and misses him), but chooses to go out and live in the wild instead. Chris’ life demonstrates the ability to have a close relationship with nature, one that does not require destruction.