Saturday, June 5, 2010


Hoping for a big screen version of Blue Planet and always interested in sea life, I dragged Jim to Oceans this past weekend. I was very excited, but it was a real disappointment and I ended up apologizing to him.

The good: there were several really awe-inspiring shots of wildlife. One shot had a diver swimming near a whale and I really got a feel for the scale of the animal, which is not often the case in whale footage. Another shot had a diver swimming alongside a great white shark. Again, I got a feel for the sheer size of the animal. I also liked the scenes of jellyfish herds. Very beautiful.

I use the word 'shot' in describing the movie because, unlike much better treatments of nature, such as Blue Planet or Planet Earth, this movie felt like a lot of 'shots' strung together. There were no 'sequences'. And this was really the main problem with Oceans, it was utterly directionless. The narrator said something about the first horseshoe crabs rising out of the water, and I thought: "Okay they're going to make some point about the history of the sea or something." Nope. They switched to a completely unrelated topic within three seconds when the next shot came up. While the really good documentaries I mentioned above transition between a lot of different topics in a fairly loose manner, there is a sense of organization and flow.  The narrator sticks with one idea for a bit, makes a point, and then guides you to the next idea.

Oceans felt like a jumble of undersea footage stitched together without rhyme or reason. Pierce Brosnan's pompously voiced narration created a lecture hall dreariness, underlined by the grandly worded but often meaningless text he was saddled with. 20 minutes into Oceans I was flat-out bored. When I heard the narration start up with the 'man hurting the environment' line, I realized we must be coming to the end and literally felt relief. Though the satellite images of pollutants flowing into the oceans were quite compelling, I was too close to napping to really care.

Some might point out that Oceans is primarily aimed at kids, and that this would be the reason I found it dull. However, the amount of fidgeting from the dozen or so kids around Jim and I suggested to me they were as bored as us. Perhaps the scattered approach was an attempt to keep the kiddies engaged by always having something new flashing across the screen? If so, it didn't work. It came off as dumbed-down, not kid-friendly. At the half-way point, I heard one child loudly ask his father in an utterly bored tone: "Can we go home?" So much for instilling the wonder of nature in the next generation.

I'm glad Disney made this effort, and I hope they continue doing flicks like this. But maybe they ought to try a little harder next time.

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