A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that To the Arctic is an educational 3-D nature documentary about the animals that thrive in the world's harshest climate. Filmed in IMAX, the movie puts a special emphasis on polar bears and the plight they face as global warming continues to extend the arctic summer season. There's nothing objectionable in the documentary, but some very young kids might be disturbed by the tense scenes when a male polar bear pursues a mother and her cubs or when the white cubs get bloody from eating freshly hunted seal meat. The narrator also explains that some cubs and caribou newborns have died because of the elements or starvation. Since the documentary is only 45 minutes long, it's just the right length to educate and entertain kids about life in the arctic's frozen world.
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What's the story?
Narrated by Academy Award winner Meryl Streep, TO THE ARCTIC follows life in the arctic for polar bears, caribou, and other animals that call the frozen landscape their home. Like the BBC-Discovery series Frozen Planet, this IMAX documentary explains how global climate change is thawing the polar ice caps, extending the arctic summer by one month, and wreaking havoc on the habitats of the bears and other arctic residents. Despite their ability to thrive in the icy world, the polar bears are starving, the caribou aren't making it to their migratory destinations to give birth, and the entire future of the arctic is literally on thin ice.
Is it any good?
Streep, a master of tone and diction, is a wonderful narrator -- injecting the movie's fairly didactic script with the emotion and urgency necessary to convey just how dire the arctic situation is. With a running time of just 45 minutes, even younger children will be able to follow along as To the Arctic introduces audiences to the industrious mother cub who can sense danger and will stop at nothing -- even growling at a much larger, much hungrier alpha male -- to protect and feed her babies.
Thanks to the participation of Paul McCartney, To the Arctic's score is full of poignant, familiar songs that match the dazzling visuals (all of that white landscape punctuated by the swimming or galloping animals) and the at times heart-wrenching story of the animals desperate to survive in their unforgiving surroundings. This isn't an uplifting story -- the arctic is facing full-on extinction by 2050 if we humans don't help stop global warming -- but it's an important one that will stick with kids long before Streep has uttered her last dulcet-toned sentiment.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the popularity of wildlife documentaries like To the Arctic and how they provide insight into the natural world. What are some favorites? Do you prefer ones with a narrator or those with more interviews and experts?
Why are wildlife documentaries well suited to the IMAX/3-D format? Do you think you get more out of documentaries in 3-D or other kinds of 3-D movies?
How can audiences take the lessons espoused in the documentary and make changes to help stop global warming?
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