If you look at the past credits of nature film director Greg MacGillivray, you’ll see oodles of super pretty documentaries, often with epic shots filmed from ‘copters buzzing a particular landscape. Of late, he’s crafted a number of those IMAX films that get shown to school kids at your local science center.
One of the weird secrets of modern business of cinema is that these relatively short IMAX docs (an platter lasts about 45 minutes) make a relative fortune, playing many times a day to often full crowds of bussed-in viewers.
In a time where people watch epic films on their phones and most theatres convert to digital projection, there’s something downright comforting in having images from a giant spool of celuloid illuminated by a 15,000 watt Xenon bulb.
Warner Brothers, perhaps in a bid to nudge their way into territory that Disney has been carving out of late, has climbed aboard this particular production, and their marketing clout sure to assist with bringing attention to the film.
At its heart, it’s a simple story of a mother polar bear and her two cubs, narrated effectively by none other than Meryl Streep. We’re granted epic vistas of the high arctic, following the bears as they make their way through a changing landscape of snow, ice and clear blue waters.
I saw the film projected on an Omnimax screen (the domed ceiling that the massive image is projected on still conducive to the normal, square aspect of this particular work). We see sheets of ice as far as ones eyes can see in the stunning clarity of 15 perf 70mm film making.
There’s a few juicy bits of content (polar bears are just brown bears that moved up North and evolved? Cool!), but for the most part it’s a fairly straightforward, child friendly look at bears, tied to the overarching theme of global climate change and its dramatic effect on the high North. I’ve always enjoyed these “land sharks”, so I’ve got no issue spending more time with them in a darkened theatre.
With such a short running time, it’s just a bit to travel to a distant part of the world and experience it on the enormous canvas of the IMAX screen. You can practically count each hair on the beasties, and despite shooting white-on-white of the bears against snow, the shoot looks fabulous throughout.
The film isn’t likely to surprise you with some startling insight into the behavior of these majestic animals, particularly if you’ve been paying attention to the docs out of the BBC of late, but there are worse ways of celebrating Earth Day than a 45 minute virtual voyage To The Arctic