Saturday, September 08, 2007

Arctic Tale

Save Our Habitat

In 2005, March of the Penguins brought us to the Antarctica, and introduced the life cycle of the emperor penguins to the mass audience. And Happy Feet was quick on its erm feet to seize the initiative and make an animated feature on our non-flying friends. Now, we journey to the opposite pole to visit Polar Bears and Walruses, but somehow, the former proved to be a logical choice for promotional posters. Having the worlds #1 brand use them in their advertisements, and as I recall one cheeky ad involving a bear shaving excess fur, you would have thought that this would make another documentary worth sitting through.

But Arctic Tale is not March of the Penguins. Narrated by Queen Latifah, it relied on similar themes and tactics in its narrative though, featuring the circle of life, and cute offsprings that you just want to cuddle (before they become big and aggressive enough to tear you apart), but apart from those, it's a totally different ball-game altogether. For starters, the focus on Walruses allowed some kind of parallels to be drawn with the Polar Bears, with the common starting point for both species, the threats that they both face in terms of survival, and how intertwined their lives are actually, because one is prey to the hunter.

It's amazing how the footage seen in the documentary were captured. As the end credits rolled, you do see stills on how up close and personal the filmmakers get to the action. But what amazed me more is how a story can be weaved from the footage shot, without being too contrived or artificial about it, despite relying on composite characters created. What I liked too is the observation on the animal species themselves. While the Polar Bears are more independent and don't hunt in packs, the actions of the Walruses, while they live as a community, do not demonstrate that they'll behave likewise when faced with a predator. Their all "man" for himself attitude do seem quite selfish, especially when a reliance on strength in numbers will probably help. But that's the way the circle of life rolls.

While it played out rather straightforwardly, what I thought was a missed opportunity was the very superficial glean on probably an important message these days - climate change, for the worse. With the rising temperatures, the polar caps are melting and shrinking, posing a direct challenge to the animals' habitat and a threat to their survival. The white, snow covered land mass they are living on, are slowly disappearing, and living off a grassland covered rock, doesn't seem to cut it, at least, not for the Polar Bears. Arctic Tale presents the effect of this change, but doesn't address the climate concerns.

Perhaps that's best left as a topic in itself. As far as Arctic Tale is concerned, it has presented and preserved, the way of life of the Polar Bears and Walruses. While not as compelling a story as March of the Penguins, it does serve its purpose, but nothing more. If compared, this one rates a notch lower.

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