Have you ever wondered how animals of the ice-bound arctic cope with the rapidly changing environment? In the new IMAX film directed by Oscar-nominee Greg MacGillivray (The Living Sea, Dolphin), “To the Arctic” reveals the harsh reality of the environmental impact that humans have on the habitats of polar bears, walrus, caribou, and various other arctic animals, and provides a window into the world of challenges for the mothers of these animals. There are some really shocking facts too, such as how the polar ice caps could melt by as early as 2050 if we do nothing now, and polar bears are on “thin ice” with the possibility of becoming extinct!
“To the Arctic” is all about how arctic animals cope with the disintegrating environment, but mainly about how a polar bear mother overcomes great challenges to keep her two cubs alive in the changing world. She has to deal with thin, dangerous ice, a scarce food source, and vicious male bears, who, if they can’t find seals to eat, are happy to consume polar bear cubs as well.
The story begins as Oscar-winning actress Meryl Streep gives a background on the life of animals of the arctic. The caribou herd goes on an arduous migration to Alaska hundreds of miles away from the arctic to give birth each spring, but the exceptionally long summer (due to global warming) disrupts their ancient ritual. Then, the story shifts to a mother polar bear with twin cubs, whom the crew filmed for five days up close. Throughout the time, the bear struggled with feeding her cubs despite a dwindling milk supply, and outwitting starving male bears.
Speaking about the polar bear mom, Streep said, “That’s something we human mothers can empathize with very strongly, the desire to safeguard our children and make their future secure. You’ll do anything, anything, to help them survive.”
There were many things I liked about this “Perrific!” 4 starfish film. First of all, I enjoyed the visual effects, especially the stunning view of the crystalline, white glacier and the shattered ice floes that covered the ocean. My favorite scene is when curious polar bears played around with cameras disguised as an iceberg in white plastic. The bears chased after the rolling camera that the cameraman was trying to steer away from them.
The dome theater at the San Diego Reuben H. Fleet Science Center where I attended the press screening really made the images pop out of the screen, and it made me feel like I’m actually in the Arctic, since I was surrounded by the pictures. I enjoyed the arctic-themed music by Paul McCartney, and Meryl Streep’s narration was done skillfully in a lively manner. This movie really raises awareness about how critically important it is to save the environment. Even I never knew that global warming is irreversible!
Though this is a great film, there are some parts of it that could be improved. In one of the scenes, the top of the dome looked a bit distorted. The ice seemed to be swirling around at the top. Finally, I thought that in some parts of the film, the music wasn’t necessary. For example, when the polar bear cubs were playing with each other, I would rather have the visuals tell the story without the songs. Overall, “To the Arctic” is a powerful conservation documentary with few flaws that I recommend to audience five and older.
After the press screening, the audience had a lively Q&A with Brad Ohlund, the director of photography for the film. He answered all of the questions well and had a great sense of humor. When a young boy asked why polar bears don’t like humans, he replied, “They actually do! They like them raw!” Brad revealed many secrets about how the team filmed the polar bears and how he worked behind the scenes. It was extremely dangerous to film polar bears, since they aggressively hunt humans. He said that the photographers often have no idea how much danger they were in until they reviewed their footage. Some of the photographers dove down underneath the polar bears while they were swimming. The cameraman was swimming 10 feet below the colossal bears to photograph them, since the bears didn’t like to dive after humans!
Moral: If we don’t care for our world today, it will be lost forever for our children tomorrow.
Watch the trailer: www.imax.com/tothearctic
Perry S. Chen is an 12-year-old award-winning film critic, artist, entertainment personality, filmmaker and animator. He has written movie reviews for San Diego Union Tribune, Animation World Network, Amazing Kids!, and his own website Perry’s Previews (http://perryspreviews.com). His first animation short “Ingrid Pitt: Beyond the Forest” about a young Holocaust survivor won “Best Animation Award” for age 8-13 group at the 17th International Family Film Festival in Hollywood, and has been acquired for worldwide distribution by Shorts International, distributor of Oscar-nominated shorts. Connect with him on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/perryspreviewsfan