“Arctic Tale” is a documentary following a polar bear cub and walrus calf through their first eight years in the Great North. While the film was beautifully shot, it was not far from watching an hour and 25 minutes of “Animal Planet” with an improved soundtrack and narration, of course, by Queen Latifah.
Seela, the walrus calf, and Nanu, the polar bear cub, are just starting out their lives in the harsh North as “Arctic Tale” begins. They are accompanied by their mothers (referred to as “Mom” and “Mama Bear”) and, in Seela’s case, an “Auntie” who will act as a protector for her first three years. I quickly forgot that the main characters were animals and assigned them human-level emotional investment, especially because they had stage names and were absolutely adorable.
Not surprisingly, the National Geographic film, locally showing only at the Palm Theatre, is produced by the same people who made “March of the Penguins.”
In a similar style, “Arctic Tale” features vivid scenes of the Great North and sweeping panoramas over the Arctic Sea that are absolutely breathtaking. Again, for those who enjoy “Animal Planet” specials (like I do), it will be perfectly entertaining.
The film did a beautiful job of capturing and personalizing the chilly world its characters live in. It seemed to depend little on Latifah’s narration and more on the blend of creative camera angles and an artsy music selection. Aimee Mann and Zach Gill’s “At the Edge of the World” is hypnotic when paired with undersea footage. Others such as Matt Costa, Pearl Jam and The Shins give the film an edgier, modern feel.
Throughout the story it was difficult to decide which species to sympathize with, especially because the polar bears were constantly trying to eat the walruses, a conflict which at one point escalated to an epic battle between Mama Bear and the humongous Auntie. (For the record, a fight between a polar bear and a walrus is something everyone should see at some point in their life.)
Of course, the underlying theme eventually exposed itself when the end of summer failed to bring back the same volume of ice the animals were used to (due to global warming, in case that wasn’t obvious). Heart-wrenching shots of the walruses trying to find an ice raft and the polar bears struggling to hunt are accompanied by Latifah’s clich‚ comments about the “new winter.”
Journalism senior Sean Michetti saw “Arctic Tale” without much preconceived notion; however, he felt that it brought to light the issue of animals’ survival instincts being put to the test after millions of years of adaptation. “I liked how they took shots from the walruses’ vantage point and tried to play it off to be the walruses’ point of view,” Michetti said of the film.
In rare form and to its credit, the narrative never attempts to lecture about global climate change or turn the film into a blame game. It simply describes and displays the environment arctic animals survive in and how it is changing. It might be passive-aggressive, but I found it refreshing that the film is strictly a documentary on animals and not an excuse to bash the human race.
I paid $5 for a matin‚e ticket at the Palm. Anything more would have made me regret seeing this film in theaters; however, a daytime showing at the quirky little theater is worth paying for this short, sensory experience. If you don’t get around to seeing the actual movie, I suggest listening the soundtrack and putting on a muted episode of “Blue Planet” while it plays in the background.