Reviews - Specialty Releases


Film Review: To the Arctic 3D

To the Arctic, as narrated by Meryl Streep, is a lovely fable about nature and motherhood in the North Pole. The problem is, it may scare the pants off you. The other problem is, it’s all true.

April 19, 2012

-By Marsha McCreadie


filmjournal/photos/stylus/1329298-Arctic_Review_Md.jpg

For movie details, please click here.

To the Arctic, the IMAX 3D film narrated by Meryl Streep and directed by Greg MacGillivray ( Dolphins, The Living Sea, Everest) shows us a world in which, if we’re not careful, there will be no more swimming in ice-cold waters, no more feasting on seals. At first this may not seem like something you’d miss.

But after you watch polar bears struggling to live at the top of the world in this film, you know our planet will be bereft. They’re cute enough—if not the jaunty creatures of Coca-Cola ads—when not scrambling to find a home on disappearing ice floes. We learn of one polar bear who swam for six days to find even a temporary resting spot, and another who didn’t make it (not to worry—the movie is appropriate for kids, with no gruesome scenes). Streep and MacGillivray’s team don’t use charts and graphs like Al Gore did in An Inconvenient Truth; global warming, or climate change if you prefer, is a given. If we continue the way we have with greenhouse gas emissions, we are told that the protective summer ice pack in the Arctic Ocean will be gone by 2050. The waterfalls from melting glaciers may be thrilling to view, but there’s no delight in this disorder; it portends doom for all Arctic dwellers.

Most of this 40-minute film is spent with one devoted polar bear mother and her cubs. They are the lucky ones. She is indefatigable, nimble, and even has enough milk to nurse both her cubs (apparently not always the case in today’s Arctic). They play gleefully, and kids will delight at their romps. But they are constantly on alert, on the run: finding enough ice, seals if they can, warding off new kinds of prey. Camera pans of melting ice floes spaced farther and farther apart make the point. So does the grim immediacy of a stalking male polar bear so hungry he will eat his own kind, necessitating “Ma” bear’s careful protection of her cubs. The view of males as predators, females as nurturers ready and willing to die for their young, may seem a bit retrograde. But we’re talking nature here, red in tooth and claw, if highlighted against white in just one bloody “feeding” scene.

On occasion, Streep gets a little preachy: The greatest gift mothers can pass on to their children is a healthy planet, she says. Can’t argue with that, but the movie does best when it lets the animals do the talking. For if the polar bears don’t get to you, the story of the caribou will. A thrilling overhead shot shows the caribou racing to the safe place where their females have always given birth—a run so powerful it seems that nothing could stop the urgent migration. But then you learn that the rivers they must ford are swollen from melting ice, and the caribou are slowed down. Some have to deliver before reaching their feeding ground, and the newborn calves are way too vulnerable.

Compare all this to a time when man and nature co-existed harmoniously. The movie cleverly uses 3D technology for a foregrounded framing device shot in nostalgic sepia tones, showing a time when the Inuit found more than enough food for any happy Eskimo family. (Snowflakes drifting toward you in the beginning of the film aren’t so innovative—maybe we’ve all been spoiled by Avatar.) Some Paul McCartney songs, though not new, are used to good effect, especially the “Because the world is round” refrain from “Because.” Round so far.



Film Review: To the Arctic 3D

To the Arctic, as narrated by Meryl Streep, is a lovely fable about nature and motherhood in the North Pole. The problem is, it may scare the pants off you. The other problem is, it’s all true.

April 19, 2012

-By Marsha McCreadie


filmjournal/photos/stylus/1329298-Arctic_Review_Md.jpg

For movie details, please click here.

To the Arctic, the IMAX 3D film narrated by Meryl Streep and directed by Greg MacGillivray (Dolphins, The Living Sea, Everest) shows us a world in which, if we’re not careful, there will be no more swimming in ice-cold waters, no more feasting on seals. At first this may not seem like something you’d miss.

But after you watch polar bears struggling to live at the top of the world in this film, you know our planet will be bereft. They’re cute enough—if not the jaunty creatures of Coca-Cola ads—when not scrambling to find a home on disappearing ice floes. We learn of one polar bear who swam for six days to find even a temporary resting spot, and another who didn’t make it (not to worry—the movie is appropriate for kids, with no gruesome scenes). Streep and MacGillivray’s team don’t use charts and graphs like Al Gore did in An Inconvenient Truth; global warming, or climate change if you prefer, is a given. If we continue the way we have with greenhouse gas emissions, we are told that the protective summer ice pack in the Arctic Ocean will be gone by 2050. The waterfalls from melting glaciers may be thrilling to view, but there’s no delight in this disorder; it portends doom for all Arctic dwellers.

Most of this 40-minute film is spent with one devoted polar bear mother and her cubs. They are the lucky ones. She is indefatigable, nimble, and even has enough milk to nurse both her cubs (apparently not always the case in today’s Arctic). They play gleefully, and kids will delight at their romps. But they are constantly on alert, on the run: finding enough ice, seals if they can, warding off new kinds of prey. Camera pans of melting ice floes spaced farther and farther apart make the point. So does the grim immediacy of a stalking male polar bear so hungry he will eat his own kind, necessitating “Ma” bear’s careful protection of her cubs. The view of males as predators, females as nurturers ready and willing to die for their young, may seem a bit retrograde. But we’re talking nature here, red in tooth and claw, if highlighted against white in just one bloody “feeding” scene.

On occasion, Streep gets a little preachy: The greatest gift mothers can pass on to their children is a healthy planet, she says. Can’t argue with that, but the movie does best when it lets the animals do the talking. For if the polar bears don’t get to you, the story of the caribou will. A thrilling overhead shot shows the caribou racing to the safe place where their females have always given birth—a run so powerful it seems that nothing could stop the urgent migration. But then you learn that the rivers they must ford are swollen from melting ice, and the caribou are slowed down. Some have to deliver before reaching their feeding ground, and the newborn calves are way too vulnerable.

Compare all this to a time when man and nature co-existed harmoniously. The movie cleverly uses 3D technology for a foregrounded framing device shot in nostalgic sepia tones, showing a time when the Inuit found more than enough food for any happy Eskimo family. (Snowflakes drifting toward you in the beginning of the film aren’t so innovative—maybe we’ve all been spoiled by Avatar.) Some Paul McCartney songs, though not new, are used to good effect, especially the “Because the world is round” refrain from “Because.” Round so far.
Post a Comment
Asterisk (*) is a required field.
* Author: 
Rate This Article: (1=Bad, 5=Perfect)

*Comment:
 

More Specialty Releases

The Congress
Film Review: The Congress

Part live-action, part cornea-searing animation, this cinematic overload is ambitious but ultimately fatigues as it plays with the intriguing notion of a fading Hollywood star selling rights so her cyberspace avatar can rise to superstardom and stay forever young in virtual reality. Flashy animation and cynical stabs at celebrity culture and movie-studio finagling keep things lively for a while. More »

The Last of Robin Hood
Film Review: The Last of Robin Hood

Serviceable vehicle for a salacious story. More »

Last Weekend
Film Review: Last Weekend

A sort of modern Chekhovian study of family tensions over a country weekend, this indie drama is very pretty to look at and at times disarming, but needed more punch. More »

The Notebook
Film Review: The Notebook

An aloof adaptation of Agota Kristof's best-seller that's technically impressive but precludes audience identification. More »

ADVERTISEMENT



REVIEWS

Sin City: A Dame to Kill For
Film Review: Sin City: A Dame to Kill For

Neither significantly better nor worse than its predecessor, the belated Sin City sequel is more of a repeat, rather than a continuation, of the original. More »

If I Stay
Film Review: If I Stay

Delivers as promised. More »

Player for the Film Journal International website.


ADVERTISEMENT



INDUSTRY GUIDES

» Blue Sheets
FJI's guide to upcoming movie releases, including films in production and development. Check back weekly for the latest additions.

» Distribution Guide
» Equipment Guide
» Exhibition Guide

ORDER A PRINT SUBSCRIPTION

Film Journal International

Subscribe to the monthly print edition of Film Journal International and get the full visual impact of this valuable resource for the cinema business.

» Click Here

SPONSORSHIP OPPORTUNITIES

Learn how to promote your company at the Film Expo Group events: ShowEast, CineEurope, and CineAsia.

» Click Here