mccandless follows in the steps of so many remarkable americans starting from thoreau, who retreated from society to embrace the wild (see walden), and emerson, to whitman who, like chris, sought authenticity in everyday people and simple life. (see leaves of grass).
his is like john muir who, by todays standards, did crazy things like walk into the sierras alone with only a loaf of bread and scaled peaks without protection (or a windshirt).
he is like, perhaps more than anyone else, jack kerouac who travelled across the country in search of authenticity and identity-- leaving the east coast in search of the "wild" west coast. he is like him in that he too worked seasonal jobs to fund his experiences; he too hopped trains, stayed in shelters, slept outside in sandy washes, shrugged off permits, went hungry, made friends from all different ilks and backgrounds and who, when he moved on, left an indelible mark in the minds and lives of those he met.
what a great legacy, to have artists like krakauer, vedder, penn and many others, tell your story. i mean, there is no such thing as a true history-- history is a retelling of facts from a certain perspective. part of that process is that the teller imbues the facts with some hue from their own life. is the movie, or the book for that matter, a completely accurate version of chris' life? no, but then no history, biography, or (especially) autobiography is.
chris made some serious errors because he was, after all, a rookie mountaineer. the most serious being his failure to cross the run-off laden river when he initally tried to leave. he didnt know that when you come to a river of that magnitude, you can spend an entire day trying to find a route across it. thats basic knowledge.
supertramp is someone to admire for the simple reason that he lived his life on his own terms and ultimately died for those deeply felt personal values. how many people can say that? too few, in my opinion, in our so-called "free" society. he lived the life of an artist who died for his artistic principles. he could of died in that sandy wash; in the sea of cortez by the sudden storm; on the PCT-- his legacy would still be the same. on the other hand, he could of died jumping a train, being stabbed at a shelter over a couple of dollars, or suffocating in those grain silos from carbon dioxide in s dakota-- would his legacy be the same? i dont think so.
at this point, the idea of chris is so much more than his life ever was (at least to people who didnt know him; not like his family or friends--to them, he is still their baby boy, their son, brother, friend, etc., in addition to being an icon). we see him now as another true american who has followed in the steps of so many great americans.
his life should be celebrated. whether it be in film or text. is the movie romanticized? of course! but is it good? yes! the movie focuses solely on the story of chris, rather than the hybrid chris/ krakauer story you get in the book. but they are both great.