For having lived in Utah the entirety of my almost 30 years, it always surprises people who don’t know me very well to learn that one of my most favorite things on earth is the ocean. Sharks in particular are my favorite animal and Jaws always has been and always will be my all-time favorite movie (John Williams’ Oscar-winning theme is even my ring tone). So imagine my enthusiasm then when the trailer for Disneynature’s new documentary, Oceans, featured a scuba diver gliding peacefully alongside a great white approximately three times his size.
As a child, I could spout any and all kinds of information regarding these underwater killing machines but they have never been the cause of nightmares and they are my favorite attraction at SeaWorld. I have a best friend who is still shocked that I’ve never sought out to be a marine biologist. Discovery Channel’s Shark Week is something I look forward to every summer, so of course, any chance to see sharks projected up on the big screen, for better or worse, you can always count me in.
From the creators of the Oscar-nominated Winged Migration (Jacques Perrin and Jacques Cluzaud) comes a look at what lurks below the surface and within earth’s five oceans that doesn’t forget what lies along the beaches as well. As narrator Pierce Brosnan announces, “To really know the ocean, you have to live it.” Thus begins a peek at some of the most extraordinary creatures to grace the silver screen this side of CGI.
You could review the whole movie as a checklist of some of your favorite sequences but there are definitely a few that stand far above the rest. For starters, one of the first “action sequences” features a feeding frenzy of sorts as dolphins, birds, sharks, and whales (oh my) chase along and through schools of sardines, leaving fewer behind as the scene whizzes by.
A blanket octopus floats along just beneath the surface looking like a scarf lost at sea. Sea lions splash on the shore proving themselves akin to man’s best friend of the sea. Humpbacks sleep upside down almost the same way as a vampire bat in a cave. Great whites leap into the air trying to snag (successfully even) a tasty lunch. Orcas use highly developed hunting techniques to hunt down sea lions in the breaking surf.
Some of the scenes have a tendency to be on the extreme side of things and if what you were seeing wasn’t real you’d have no excuse for feeling like you should be questioning what you’re looking at. A mantis shrimp has just finished cleaning its home when a crab decides it wants to mosey along for a peek. Proving itself to be the kung fu master of the sea it gives the crab a beat down complete with true sound effects to make a foley artist blush with envy.
The cuttle fish uses a light show of sorts to show just how magical it can be only to lure in its prey for dinner. And if you think you’ve seen battles of epic proportions before you ain’t seen nothing yet. A crab battle scene erupts before your eyes complete with stampeding sides and escalates into a shot that can only be composed of what appears to be hundreds or thousands of crabs.
But the film isn’t just all about the majestic undersea kingdom. The ocean's bounty is obviously at risk and of course we humans come along to almost spoil the mood. Thankfully the preachy sections aren’t as skull-bashing as they could be and offer instead a unique perception of satellite footage revealing pollution seeping out into the waters. Also there’s a very creepy scene featuring a sea lion swimming in the murky polluted waters trying to figure out what a shopping cart is doing in his homeland.
At one point a fellow critic leaned over to me and said, “This movie needs some organization,” and while it mostly holds true, as a huge fan of these types of documentaries I would have to disagree as it's all brain candy for me. And at only 87 minutes including credits it all whizzes by breathtakingly. While admittedly it’s nowhere near as cohesive as last Earth Day’s Disneynature release, Earth, if you just want to sit back and enjoy the scenes of grandeur, you’re in for a huge treat. And while there may be a fart joke early in the film, even nature needs to let off some steam sometimes.
Photo courtesy Disneynature