We Get Greener Kit Cassingham & her Bigger Half

Arctic Tale, Movie Review

Arctic Tale is a National Geographic soft-documentary, brought to us by Paramount Pictures, about life on the arctic ice cap. A polar bear cub "Nanu" and walrus pup (also referred to as a cub or calf) "Seela" are used as the focal points, as we watch "them" mature for eight years, to help illustrate how challenging life is in the far north, and what global warming is doing to wildlife.

It's the composite approach to Nanu and Seela, as well as some other antics, that gives this documentary the preface of "soft" for me. Granted the 15 years of film footage, along with clips from other wildlife photographers, made for a good story. This approach aided the depiction that polar bear and walrus have a lot in common, though their paths rarely actually cross.

The video cover (I rented the movie) gives the impression this is an animated film, but it's not, it's more documentary-like, with the color and scenery National Geographic documentaries are known for. Queen Latifah narrates, though I didn't find her voice as compelling as Morgan Freeman's in March of the Penguin.

The choice of a polar bear and a walrus to watch through eight years was an interesting one. Polar bears are solitary animals while walrus are social. Their eating habits and social structure are different enough that I got a clear picture of their challenges, and how their fates are intertwined.

As climate change happens, habitat and food sources change. Changing conditions causes changes in family patterns, and it's yet to be seen what impact that will have on the arctic's wildlife populations. Eating habits change to accommodate changing animal life. Since the arctic as already a stressful place to exist, change compounds the problems of living there. This is illustrated through facts interspersed throughout the movie.

I thought the cycle of life was well depicted: birth, hunting, running for safety, mating, and the seasons. That hinted at the cycles of nature, the coming and going of species. But it was only a hint, so I think it missed the mark this movie could have made.

Climate change is part of the cycle of life. While I believe humans have contributed more than their share to climate change, it is "natural". I wanted the movie to discuss how those of us who don't live in the arctic region will suffer -- or not -- by the loss of the polar ice cap and the plants and animals indigenous to the area.

I would have liked to have had more information presented on what we are doing to speed up the changes to the arctic. The kids at the end of the documentary talking about what we can do to lead more environmentally friendly lives seemed out of place somehow. While the information they were sharing was valuable, I didn't see it tied directly to the problems depicted by the movie.

Here are some of the facts I learned from the movie:

  • it takes three years to raise bear cubs and walrus pups
  • bear cubs are being "kicked out" a year early because the mom can't properly defend or feed them
  • seals escape predators 19 out of 20 times
  • today's arctic storms are more violent than historically
  • walrus pups are precious to the herd, and protected accordingly
  • arctic summer sea ice has shrunk by 20 percent in the past few decades

While I learned some interesting things about arctic life, I was disappointed by the production. The information was almost as thin as the ice the polar bear and walrus live on. While I enjoyed this 86 minute movie, I was left wanting more substance, more message.

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