Judge Clark Douglas thinks More Than Honey would be a good title for Winnie the Pooh's memoir.
It's the bees' knees!
Yes, the bees are disappearing. Yes, the potential future consequences of this trend are extraordinarily ominous. Yes, Albert Einstein once said that if the bees died out, humanity would follow just four years later. All of these familiar facts (which we've all surely heard by now via news articles, TV specials and films like the Ellen Page-narrated Vanishing of the Bees) are laid out once again in More Than Honey, which offers yet another examination of colony collapse disorder. Even so, this latest bee-themed doc manages to stand out thanks to its gentle tone, compelling protagonist, and surprising moments of optimism.
Our guide through this particular take on the issue is Markus Imhoof, a Swiss filmmaker who determines to explore the world in search of answers. He introduces us to a handful of compelling individuals who are affected by the bee crisis, all of whom have a different take on the matter. In one early sequence, we bear witness to Chinese workers pollinating flowers by hand. It's a slow, remarkably ineffective process that accomplishes only a small fraction of what the bees are able to achieve, and it serves as a quiet warning of the kind of future humanity might be facing if we aren't able to find a solution soon. It's not quite the doomsday prediction that some have offered, but, "Life is going to be a lot suckier and more difficult!" may prove a more effective warning than, "You're all going to die!"
In Switzerland, we meet beekeeper Fred Jaggi, who has been raising bees ever since childhood (his father and grandfather were professional beekeepers as well). There's a tenderness to his approach, a level of personal care that is increasingly rare in the modern world. In contrast (but not necessarily negative contrast), we have Florida beekeeper John Miller, a no-nonsense businessman who is more than a little pissed off about the toll colony collapse syndrome is taking on his profits. He's a passionate environmentalist for business reasons rather than moral purposes, but a passionate environmentalist nonetheless.
Rather than overplaying the situation with melodramatic music and ominous narration, Imhoof takes a more reflective and thoughtful approach. He takes time to observe the rhythms of everyday life for the assorted professionals he features in his film, and also offers some compelling footage of the bees themselves. The film's coda is especially heartening, as it suggests the possibility of a genuine solution on the horizon, albeit a solution that also sounds a bit like the premise of an Irwin Allen thriller (hint: it involves killer bees).
More Than Honey (Blu-ray) has received a functional 1080p/1.78:1 transfer that varies a bit based on the quality of the cameras used for each section. While some of the archival footage understandably looks a little rough, I was surprised by how hit-and-miss the new material was. Talking head interviews generally look strong, but raw footage elsewhere can be shaky. The DTS HD 5.1 Master Audio track sounds solid, though it's important to note that there are two notable audio options: the original track (which features Imhoof speaking in his native language and is subtitled) or a track in which John Hurt reads Imhoof's words in English. It doesn't make a huge difference, honestly, as portions of the film are subtitled and in English either way, but whatever floats your boat. Supplements include a twenty-minute interview with Imhoof, some deleted scenes, two very short featurettes ("Flight Into the Beehive" and "In the Mountain Cave"), trailers and an image gallery.
More Than Honey isn't quite transcendent enough to achieve greatness, but it's better and more distinctive than you might expect given how thoroughly this story has been covered. Recommended.
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