Published Apr 19, 2012For the handful of folks still unaware, the Arctic glaciers are melting at an alarming rate due to global warming, leaving polar bears without ice floes to hunt prey. Resultantly, they're forced to spend their summers ashore fasting, hindering the possibility of reproduction.
It's an environmentalist plight tailor-made for the preachy enviro-doc genre, centering on adorable animals in peril in a bid to sway passive viewers into action, or at least get them to "like" it on Facebook. As such, two-time Academy Award nominated filmmaker Greg MacGillivray has created To The Arctic as a method of educating people on the errors of their ways.
The opening scene is breathtaking, as the camera soars high above a glacier, capturing the expansive, glistening Arctic with overwhelming aesthetic composure, leaving one to think they're in for a treat. That is, until the opening credits appear in ice block letters, shatter into shards and fly at the viewer's face, much like the latest 3D Final Destination movie.
The film predominantly follows the challenging life of a mother polar bear as she raises and cares for her two cubs in the ever-changing Arctic, but frequently veers off on tangents to show other animal and human activities. There are short segments about a biologist and his wife following a herd of caribou on their migration route, as well as a segment about the plight of the walruses and a story about the Inuit people and how they have had to adapt to the melting ice floes.
For all of the gorgeously rendered shots of crisp Arctic locales, the actual voice of the documentary is overwhelmingly heavy-handed and patronizing, regardless of narrator Meryl Streep's efforts to spruce it up with her trademark professionalism and well-considered parental tone (something almost undone by having her refer to the Northern Lights as a "frisky dance"). And even though they're careful not to anthropomorphize the animal stars with cutesy human traits, the frequent ice-framed picture-in-picture vignettes intended to guide (manipulate) the viewer dumb things down to an excruciating degree. Couple this with music by Paul McCartney and you quickly realize this film is geared towards forcing malleable grade school children onto a Hollywood-friendly bandwagon.
Looking past the overt environmentalist agenda and cheesy special effects, To the Arctic is visually stunning and offers a rare glimpse into a land most people can't begin to imagine, making the IMAX medium the ideal format for its spectacle. (Warner)