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Océans (2010) ***

April 26, 2010



directed by: Jacques Perrin & Jacques Cluzaud

produced by: Jacques Perrin, Romain Legrand, Nicolas Mauvernay & Jake Eberts

rated G
103 min.
U.S. release date: April 23, 2010
It’s safe to assume that we can expect a new film from Disneynature, the independent branch of Disney, this time each year to celebrate Earth Day. Based out of France, the label’s first feature release was last year’s “Earth”, an edited version of culled footage from the “Planet Earth” series. With this year’s entry, “Océans”, examining a surface view of our planet’s vast five oceans, we’re given more high-quality documentary film-making meant to showcase the splendor of the seas. While there are countless other family-friendly nature docs out there, I believe the Disneynature films, especially this one, offer a more artful, even meditative viewing experience.
That’s not to say that one cannot learn something here. “Océans” is certainly a gateway film guaranteed to inspire viewers to seek out further oceanic education, if they are so moved. The directors here are not going for a nautical 101 approach but would rather show instead of tell. Even actor Pierce Brosnan delivers a narration that is light on the details and heavy on the contemplation. It’s as if you’re sitting outside next to him, overlooking an ocean as he waxes aquatic poetry. It doesn’t matters that a complete dossier on each sea creature is not provided or that each ocean isn’t typed out on the screen. We’ll figure it out as we revel in the awesome power of the oceans and the thriving life seldom seen in its depths.
What’s most refreshing about this film is that there is no need for it be in IMAX or 3D. The cinematographers do an impeccable job bringing us close up or zooming us up into the sky to view the sheer power of the waves slapping around bulky ships. It feels like the filmmakers are just as awestruck as we are at a diver calmly swimming alongside a Great White or towering waves fiercely pounding a lighthouse. The camera knows when to just observe a group of playful seals or admire the graceful movements of two enormous humpback whales, up close and personal. Like many times in the past when I view such films, there were plenty of times where I thought to myself, “How did they film that?”
It’s always thrilling to see the various food chains in action in a fight for life in these films. A group of sea lions find out that strength in numbers is futile when they are targeted by Great Whites or Orcas. And those poor little newborn turtles are thrust into a mad dash of life and death as they desperately try to make into the ocean before they are plucked away by the birds circling above. Out of a shore full of these tiny guys, only one may escape into the deep blue sea and a parent-less journey. And to think how often humans complain about their lives! It’s a sobering reminder that every being has their place and purpose in the oceans; that there is always a bigger fish.
Unfortunately, the threat to the biggest predator in the ocean is man and while the film doesn’t pontificate on environmental issues, it doesn’t really have to. It’s pretty obvious how human evolution, waste and carelessness has scarred the seas. Think what you will of environmentalists and their concerns but the visual evidence provided here is clear. We are a prideful and selfish race of beings. I couldn’t help but wonder how other planets have flourished with or without the existence of sentient beings….but that spirals into another topic entirely.
“Océans” may not blow us out of the water but that’s only because of the endless exposure we now have to similar footage. I’m glad Disneynature will continue to make and release such films (you can expect “African Cats” for Earth Day 2011) as it has been a joy to view such films with my family and my friends and their families. We can learn just as much about ourselves from a film about the oceans as we can taking in a film about other cultures. Some may see this as just another nature flick and that’s too bad since it really is an amazing look and something many of us will likely never see in person.

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