Cute po­lar bears un­der­score global warm­ing dam­age

Winnipeg Free Press - Section G - - ENTERTAINMENT - By Jay Stone

THE Arc­tic is melt­ing out from un­der the paws (and flip­pers) of some of the world’s most mag­nif­i­cent an­i­mals, a mes­sage cloaked in two unas­sail­able truths — moth­er­hood and cute ba­bies — in the new Imax film, To the Arc­tic 3D. Yes, it’s an­other warn­ing about global warm­ing, but this one comes with some as­ton­ish­ing cin­e­matog­ra­phy, ma­jes­tic land­scapes, and the chance to see a po­lar bear dis­man­tling a ro­botic cam­era to see what makes it tick. It’s a rare case of na­ture de­feat­ing tech­nol­ogy.

First the good news: Veteran Imax di­rec­tor Greg Mcgil­livray ( Ever­est, The Liv­ing Sea) takes us to the far reaches of the not-so-frozen North to wit­ness the lives of bears, cari­bou, and a mem­o­rable colony of wal­ruses. It’s a world that is in­creas­ingly sub­ject to dev­as­ta­tion caused by global warm­ing, but in the mean­time, a wal­rus is a most ex­cel­lent an­i­mal — in close-up it re­sem­bles Imax Portage Place 40 min­utes

out of five the Pop­eye char­ac­ter Wimpy, ex­cept with, like, no feet — given to nap­ping on its back and emit­ting snores that rat­tle the theatre seats: Just imag­ine the man of the house on a Sun­day af­ter­noon in front of the TV, but with tusks.

Po­lar bears, mean­while, are in a class of their own, and To the Arc­tic ends with a com­pelling drama about a mother and two seven-month-old cubs mak­ing their way across the ice floes. They’re seek­ing seals to eat and try­ing to dodge a preda­tory male — who will turn to baby bears for food dur­ing hard times — but still find­ing time to snug­gle and, in the case of the cubs, wres­tle, roll across the snow, and oc­ca­sion­ally chew on their own legs. It’s pretty well too cute for words.

Po­lar bears are the de­scen­dants of brown bears who came to the Arc­tic 150,000 years ago and evolved white fur and long snouts, one of the sev­eral fac­toids that has been slipped into To the Arc­tic — in the au­thor­i­ta­tive nar­ra­tion of Meryl Streep — as part of a pot­pourri of im­pres­sions about the chang­ing land­scape. The main mes­sage is the dan­gers of green­house gases to: a herd of cari­bou shown mi­grat­ing across dan­ger­ously melt­ing tun­dra so the moth­ers can get to a safe birthing ground in Alaska; the lazy but cam­era-shy wal­ruses (one of them bumps into an un­der­wa­ter lens like some over­weight Hol­ly­wood star at­tack­ing the pa­parazzi); and mostly, the bears, which face im­pos­si­ble swims be­tween ice floes be­cause of the in­creased melt­ing.

“The po­lar bear is on thin ice,” Streep says: Sea ice is melt­ing so rapidly, it’s es­ti­mated there won’t be any at all by 2050.

The mes­sage, as im­por­tant as it is, threat­ens to over­whelm To the Arc­tic, but the film­mak­ers wisely put it into the con­text of char­ac­ters we care about: the an­i­mals. Po­lar bears are dif­fi­cult to find and pho­to­graph, but the cam­era crew man­ages to cap­ture un­der­wa­ter footage that shows them pad­dling through the icy ocean, and even chas­ing a ro­bot cam­era hid­den in a fake chunk of ice that the bears smash apart, as cu­ri­ous as cats.

Much of this is chore­ographed to mu­sic by Paul Mccart­ney, in­clud­ing the songs Be­cause and Maybe I’m Amazed, which cap­ture the lonely po­etry of this stark place. Like the ground­break­ing doc­u­men­tary, An In­con­ve­nient Truth, To the Arc­tic 3D is an­other final warn­ing about what we’re do­ing to our­selves and what we stand to lose. It’s also a panoramic record of that dy­ing world.


Po­lar bear roams near Churchill look­ing

for next meal.

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