Movie Review: Hunt for the Wilderpeople

By Andrew Burns, Contributor

[Piki; 2016]

Rating: 9/10

If Pixar were to ever venture into live-action film, the result would likely bear a strong resemblance to Hunt for the Wilderpeople. Actually, Pixar has already made a film that shares many qualities with Hunt for the Wilderpeople. Like Pixar’s Up, Hunt for the Wilderpeople depicts an outcast elderly man learning about life from an enthusiastic young boy through their tale of survival. The old man, Hec, is a survivalist, who has had no one for the majority of his life. This loneliness and abandonment is shared with the young boy, Ricky, a foster child taken into care by Hec’s wife. No one has ever believed in him and many, especially the child services worker, have never seen much good in him. The world expects Ricky to misbehave and cause trouble so he does exactly what is expected. Hec’s wife was the first person to ever see potential in young Ricky.  Even Hec himself was reluctant to embrace Ricky. At the beginning, Hec and Ricky have completely different interests and ideals. It is only through this shared experience of survival in the New Zealand wilderness that they grow together.  

The story of Hunt for the Wilderpeople is told through chapters. While this is not a first for cinematic storytelling, it is used to create a unique pace in the film. At the end, you become amazed at how much happens throughout the film’s runtime. The chapter structure, which contains about eight or nine chapters, allows so much to happen. Each chapter has its own major event that would likely be worthy of being the climaxes of other films. Because of the chapter structure, the film feels larger. No moment is wasted in Hunt for the Wilderpeople and the film packs the content of a three hour adventure movie into under two hours.

Aesthetically, the film is gorgeous. It takes place in the wilderness and is thus composed of many nature shots, which benefit from the beautiful New Zealand brush. The film’s editing and composition are reminiscent of Wes Anderson’s films and likely were inspired by them; many shots in the film are symmetrical and shot-reverse shot is used for comedic effect, especially in the first few chapters. The similarities to Anderson’s films do not end there, as Hunt for the Wilderpeople shares the same charm and heart as many Anderson films, effortlessly combining the features of his films with those of Pixar’s. It is a must see for fans of Anderson, fans of Pixar, and fans of the humanities in general.

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