“White Fang” Is a Good Wolf Movie Not So Much a Good Dog One

Jack London’s grim naturalistic novels The Call of the Wild and White Fang are thoroughly tamed when translated into animation or Disney live action adventure. The latest adaptation of White Fang, now streaming on Netflix, tries to maintain a balance between London’s naturalism and family dog domestication.

Wild showed how a dog can become a wolf and Fang how a wolf can become a dog. In the works of London the two novels are companion pieces rather than sequels: they are one way trips with no returning back. The final scene of the Netflix White Fang has Fang howling out on a rocky outcrop within the admiring ear of his former Indian and white man care keepers. Director Alexandre Espigares is clearly setting up The Call of the Wild sequel.

The natural first half is more effective than the domesticated second one. It is blissfully free of the noble Indian, good white man vs evil greedy Gollum looking gold rush settlers. Going missing in the second half is the symphonic score that give its wildlife rearing scenes a sweeping emotionalism.

White Fang is a black and white vision for an animal that sees in shades of gray.

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