To The Arctic has a clear agenda
A documentary by Greg MacGillivray. Rated G.
To The Arctic, the latest adventure for IMAX veteran Greg MacGillivray, makes the case that polar ice is slipping away faster than wildlife (including us) can handle it. For a film with such a clear agenda, though, it offers some very mixed messages. Its seriousness is undercut by Meryl Streep’s breathless preschool narration, cheap-looking 3-D–style effects (although it is being presented in real 3-D in other cities), and treacly new music from Paul McCartney. On the other hand, hearing the Beatles’ “Because” in auditorium-sized a cappella instantly conveys the grandeur and the fragility of this remote region.
For a long while, the 40-minute film flits between subjects, resting on various walruses and caribou competing for remaining solid ground. “But then we luck out,” Streep coos, meaning, “Here’s where the narrative kicks in.” That yields truly arresting footage of a mother polar bear leading her two cubs in search of food, and protecting them from aggressive males. (Let’s face it: men bring trouble, whatever the species.)
We are obviously meant to root for the adorable bears, but not so much the “tasty seals” they dine on. The talking-to-children tone is understandable, but, clearly, we have lost more than glacial ice when filmmakers have to be afraid of offending audiences with open references to evolution, climate change, and science in general. (It took Superstorm Sandy to make either U.S. presidential candidate acknowledge climate change in public.)
Intriguingly, a fleeting glimpse of Robert Flaherty’s 1922 Nanook of the North suggests how much the Arctic has changed, and at a rate faster than anyone predicted. Ninety years later, and we still have to be talked into caring.
Watch the trailer for To the Arctic.