One year ago, Earth Day 2009, I excitedly ventured to see DisneyNature’s new documentary film, “Earth,” only to be disappointed by the abundance of repetitive footage extracted from the phenomenal television series “Planet Earth.” Although I certainly did not rave about this previous film, I have to admit, the moment I saw the trailer for DisneyNature’s next production, “Oceans,” I was once again stoked. I just can’t resist a good nature film. This French-American documentary, directed by Jacques Perrin, once again explores the beautiful scenery of our vast planet; however, as the title clearly suggests, this time, we are exposed to the life of the sea, in an attempt to enlighten viewers about the question, “What is the ocean?”
Sadly, yet again, the film was a disappointment. You’d think I’d learn. The problem this time was not that the footage consisted of hand-me-down segments from “Planet Earth” (they weren’t at all, I hadn’t seen any of it before), but instead that the film had trouble keeping me awake–at times, it was extremely boring. This issue arises from the somber and subdued tone of the film. Even during scenes with intense footage and mysterious animals, the narration (provided by Pierce Brosnan) left me yawning and relaxed; it lacked excitement and vigor. Through Brosnan’s descriptions, the movie strangely depicted the ocean as a calm and delicate environment, which might be somewhat true, but I know it is much more varied and complicated than that.
The film was also terribly organized, which, paired with the incongruent narration, made it even more difficult to maintain my interest. Either I completely missed it, or the documentary really did lack a storyline or any sort of arc. It didn’t even have any noticeable, planned arrangement, perhaps detailing wildlife by geographic location or ocean depth. Alternately, the movie displayed what I felt were insufficiently short, seemingly random clips of majestic ocean life from any place, any depth and any season without rhyme or reason, leaving me dizzy and unsatisfied. I wanted to know more about the animals, for example the beautiful, silk-like blanket octopus (seriously, check it out). Basically as soon as they appeared on screen, the movie skipped to the next creature, arousing more questions than producing answers.
Although I did leave the theater unenthusiastic and confused as to the trajectory of the film, I can’t deny that the footage comprising the documentary is beyond incredible. The process of collecting such footage is unfathomable. They capture everything: breathtaking ocean scenery from the tropics to the poles, as well as classic animals (whales, sea lions, jelly fish, sharks and assorted fish) and plenty of bizarre, alien-like creatures from the ocean depths. While the story and descriptions may not have conveyed the appropriate message, fortunately, the cinematography speaks for itself. It’s obvious that the ocean holds a whole different, diversified world beneath the surface.
The saddest part of the film was the necessary PSA-like segment that warned viewers of the perils lying ahead for the ocean’s future. As the movie shows a sea lion swimming in dirty, trash infested water, examining a discarded shopping cart on the ocean floor, you can’t help but feel guilty. Obviously, one ultimate goal of the film is to further advance the conservation movement, an aim to which I am not at all opposed. One particular shot of a mother walrus embracing (and literally hugging) her cub in the Arctic Ocean was probably the cutest and most endearing thing I have ever seen. Unfortunately, melting ice caps do not facilitate walrus cuddling, a thought that makes me shudder.
Both DisneyNature films have been disappointing, and yet for some unknown reason, I can hardly wait for the franchise’s third installment, “African Cats.” It wouldn’t really matter what they did, I am a sucker for nature films. While the thrill of the films may be lacking, the content is not. I was not entirely engaged, but while I sat there watching the film, relaxed and subdued, I witnessed remarkable facets of the planet that only left me wanting more. So, I will definitely be there, April 22, 2011, eagerly anticipating some African cat action, only this time around, I’ll have learned my lesson–my expectations will be lower.