Warner Bros. // 2012 // 40 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Patrick Naugle // April 11th, 2013
A story of love, family, and survival in the harshest climate on earth.
Ah, polar bears...nature's albino cuties. They've been made into stuffed animals, children's toys, animated movie characters, and Coca-Cola spokespersons (spokesbears?). However, if you were to attempt to cuddle up with one of these pale grizzlies, they'd just as soon eat your face off as to look at you. What's the point of this introduction? Don't cuddle with polar bears.
To the Arctic (originally made for IMAX screens) is a movie about polar bears, but it's also about the environment. Only a few minutes in, narrator Meryl Streep (The Iron Lady) informs us most arctic glaciers are melting at an alarming rate. Because the ice is melting, the sun has nothing to reflect against, thus warming the oceans...and melting the ice faster than ever before. This has a negative effect on the polar bears, who are losing their high ground...literally.
Much of the footage in To the Arctic is breathtaking. Viewers are given a glimpse at these majestic creatures in their natural habitat as they bound from floating ice chunk to ice chunk, spending their days swimming in the ocean trying to find seals to eat. One sequence in particular felt like it came straight from an action film, as an exhausted mother bear and her cubs embarked on a race against time, chased by an aggressive male bear across the vast ocean of ice as they desperately searched for food.
This is a pleasant enough nature documentary that never delves too deep into the polar bear's lives, often taking detours to focus on migrating birds, the Inuit people of the Arctic, wild caribou, and deep sea ice divers who photograph the animals. For my money, the most interesting part is when the filmmakers focused on a group of chunky walruses. Watching these snaggle-toothed monsters swimming through the icy depths made me glad I live in a far warmer climate (if you can call winter in Chicago a warmer climate).
If I have any major complaints about To the Arctic, it's that the film never finds a focus, choosing instead to bound from one group of animals (or people) to the next without much insight. Meryl Streep's mellow narration certainly doesn't help matters, her readings are as effective as a bottle of sleeping pills. I wish she would have livened up the proceedings with a bit more enthusiasm or humor.
Presented in both 3D and 2D 1.78:1/1080p high definition widescreen, the transfer is crystal clear with scenes that will take your breath away. There are many deep blues and whites to be seen, and they practically pop off the screen. The subdued DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio mix features songs by Sir Paul McCartney and Steve Wood. Truth be told, they're probably the best thing about the film. The music seeps through all five channels with the rear speakers used for a few random directional effects. Also included are English SDH, Spanish, and French subtitles.
Bonus features include six very brief featurettes ("Pristine," "Life Under Water," "The Challenges of Filming in the Arctic," "To the Arctic with Meryl Streep," "A Polar Bear Family," and "Welcome to the Arctic"), and a theatrical trailer, as well as DVD, iTunes digital, and UltraViolet copies of the film.
The kids will most certainly get a kick out of this brief 40-minute adventure, while everyone else will find To the Arctic little more than a National Geographic-lite time filler.
Guilty. Too light and insubstantial to swallow.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Warner Bros.
* 1.78:1 Non-Anamorphic (1080p)
* DTS HD 5.1 Master Audio (English)
* English (SDH)
Running Time: 40 Minutes
Release Year: 2012
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* 3D Version
* DVD Copy
* Digital Copy
* UltraViolet Download