Oceans (review)

It’s tough to give a yellow light to this one, because if you really want to see it, you should see it on the biggest screen you can find: the spectacular photography is the best thing about it. But the overall affect is most like that of a screensaver… and a short one, at that (I’ve seen “official” runtimes of between 86 and 89 minutes, but by my watch, it was more like 70 minutes). It’s pretty to look at, but the narrative — by, in the English-language version, a bored-sounding Pierce Brosnan (Remember Me) — is strained, at best. Filmmakers Jacques Perrin and Jacques Cluzaud (Winged Migration) journeyed the globe to capture images of undersea life, and they did a beautiful job of that: from the battle between a giant shrimp and a crab to crab armies on the march to jellyfish that look like cartoons Jules Verne would have imagined to sea lions lolling on a pristine beach, here is life in the oceans and at their fringe in ways we haven’t seen it before. And I love how the fact that almost no bodies of water are actually named — you will not hear “Atlantic Ocean,” “Pacific waters,” or anything like that — creates the (appropriate) evocation of just one world ocean on Planet Earth. That said, the movie fails to follow through on its opening gambit: “In the space of one lifetime as the human race reached for the stars, it seemed as if all of nature got out of whack.” A few brief images of pollution spewing from rivers and a sea lion swimming in brown, garbage-strewn water don’t do much to reinforce what I suspect the filmmakers are trying to say, that this is our last chance to see — and save — a threatened realm. If they wanted to present a simply sunny portrait of the oceans deep, fine. But then why broach the unpleasant side of the matter at all?

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