With its wondrous IMAX cinematography, this film captures the beauty and texture of nature in a way that could be a more visceral, enthralling experience than actually being there. Viewers soar over the treetops and coastline one moment, almost feeling the brisk wind and sea spray; the next, they're cozied up next to a sleeping, rapidly breathing cream-colored spirit bear, feeling sheer astonishment that such a thing actually exists. Since director Ian McAllister is the first person to capture the elusive spirit bear on screen, "Mox" gets extra attention, but she's just one particularly fascinating cog in the wheel of the rainforest ecosystem captured in Great Bear Rainforest: Land of the Spirit Bear. Mostly, the docu offers snippets of the lives of birds, marine life, and wildlife, putting the pieces together to show how all of the life supported by the rainforest is interdependent, including the native tribespeople who also reside there.
Bioscience isn't always the most exciting subject matter for kids, but McAllister keeps young viewers on the hook by weaving in interviews with the new generation of the First Nations tribe: a 12-year-old who observes bears up close, a 15-year-old who uses DNA collection to learn more about forest animals, and a 25-year-old fisherman who uses sustainable fishing practices. It's all very informative, but it's hard not to wish that Reynolds' trademark sarcasm would make a more frequent appearance -- it's all a little dry. The real letdown, though, is that the film ends with the declaration that "everyone -- everyone! -- has to pull together" to preserve the rainforest, but it doesn't explain how the audience is supposed to do that.