Susan Granger’s review of “To the Arctic” (IMAX/Warner Bros.)
Perfectly timed to celebrate Earth Day, IMAX Theaters across the country are launching an exclusive journey to the top of the world with one of their coolest, most compelling nature films.
Narrated by Meryl Streep with music by Paul McCartney, it not only explores the Arctic’s mammoth glaciers, waterfalls and ice fields but also gets up-close-and-personal with a mother polar bear and her twin seven-month-old cubs. Since polar bears are notoriously elusive, it was miraculous that this protective, nursing mother seemed indifferent to the camera crew, giving them unprecedented photographic access, as her cubs romped, played, swam and learned not only how to hunt but also when to stand their ground.
Throughout winter, resilient polar bears rely on food stored in their bodies, primarily from seals, which they hunt from ice platforms which once extended for miles into the sea. But ice floes are melting more rapidly than ever before, forcing them to swim further and compete for sustenance. So when a predatory male catches the scent of the ever-vigilant mother and cubs, their very lives are in danger as he doggedly pursues them for four, tension-filled miles.
In addition to polar bears, there are walrus and seal colonies that populate the frigid shoreline, as well as herds of hearty musk oxen and caribou migrating through the tundra.
Oscar-nominated filmmaker Greg MacGillivray (“The Living Sea,” “Dolphins”) and his crew visited the Arctic seven times over four years, spending a total of eight months there, including four weeks aboard the 130-foot icebreaker MS Havsel, from which they spotted their captivating central characters. Never before had filmmakers tracked a polar bear family at such close range, 24 hours a day, for nearly a week, and photographer Bob Cranston discovered that the best way to record bears swimming was to dive just a little deeper than they usually venture and focus upward.
On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “To the Artic” is an emotionally eloquent 8, awakening awareness for environmental conservation.