At What Cost?
★ ★ ★ 1/2 out of 5 buckets
Rated: G Nature and animal documentary
Release Date: April 20, 2012
Runtime: 40 mins
Director: Greg MacGillivray
Writers: Stephen Judson
Cast: Meryl Streep
SYNOPSIS: In the Arctic, as the majestic snow starts to melt due to the steady increase in Polar temperatures, a mother polar bear and her two young cubs try to navigate and survive the changing landscape.
REVIEW: Two-time Academy Award-nominated filmmaker Greg MacGillivray (The Living Sea, Dolphins), producer Shaun MacGillivray (Grand Canyon Adventure: River at Risk), composer Steve Wood, and writer/editor Stephen Judson rejoin for their next IMAX documentary project. This time around, the team tackles a hot topic involving the devolving landscape of the Arctic Circle and the inhabitants that thrive there.In the forbidden climate of the Arctic Circle, thousands of years of evolution have adapted the animals to survive and thrive in the cold than is colder than cold, and a horizon that really never sleeps. And when it does goes dark, the lights of the Aurora Borealis keep the flicker of illumination alive. On the icy landscape a mother polar bear leads her two seven-month-old bear cubs to food, protecting them from the elements and from other predators. While the polar bears deal with natural selection a host of other animals, from birds to walruses to caribou, must also look to survive.
Narrated by Oscar winner Meryl Streep, with added input from diving cameramen, Inuits, and scientists, To The Arctic speaks of the animals that thrive in the harsh icy terrain that is the Arctic Circle. But as the average temperatures of the North Pole rises at double the rate of the rest of the globe, the habitat that the animals have adapted themselves to is quickly changing. As the glacial masses recede and the sun's rays are decreasingly reflected back out to space, the area in which these majestic creatures roam dwindles at an alarming rate. The ice platforms that the mother polar bear swims out to in order to hunt for seals does not go out as far as it used to, forcing mother bear to swim dozens, maybe hundreds, of miles to get to a place where she can hunt for food for her and her cubs.
But the perils that the polar bears face is not limited to just the the furry white bears. Caribou that trek hundreds of miles in land migration to the Alaskan coast in order to birth find that the summer has come earlier. Because of the earlier summer temperatures the rivers have risen sooner, forcing the caribou to ford through the rapids with some newborns that will never make the trip to completion. Birds and walruses are finding difficulties in their habitat and feeding grounds as well. The cold Arctic Circle climate is integral to their livelihood, and is critical to the rest of us further south.
Filmed in 15/70mm IMAX, MacGillivray and his crew spent four years and a total period of seven months filming, capturing the harsh and forbidding majesties of the great white north. The animals that the MacGillivray Freeman films crew captured in the extreme conditions cannot exists outside of the climates of the Arctic Circle. Wonderous crystal clear waterfalls carving through glorious immense glaciers stand as astonishing feats of nature, and serve as reminders to the majesty and fragile balance at the top of the world. The gorgeous spray of the waterfalls sets the perfect example as the increase in the cascade of water over the stories-high glacial cliffs serves as an indication of the dangerous warming in the region.
Coupled with the picture perfect camerawork is a score composed by long time MacGillivray music man Steve Wood. Working with MacGillivray since his 1975 surfing cult classic Five Summer Stories, Wood creates a symphony to add sounds to the three-dimensional sights. With several songs from Sir Paul McCartney, the audio is complete once Meryl Streep lends her voice talents to the script.
More a plead for help and reformation on the eroding glacial terrain and rising temperatures than a focus on the circle of life of a single group of animals, MacGillivray does use the caribou, walruses, birds as a backdrop to tell the story of a vanishing environment. The mother polar bear and her two cubs are front and center in the spotlight as the cute and beautiful poster children for the cause, but are still mere players in the ecological fight for our future.
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