Movie News & Reviews

'Oceans': Documentary has stunning images and a dire warning

DisneyNature follows its sprawling, over-reaching Earth Day 2009 documentary Earth with a more dazzling, more on-message movie about the state of the world's seas.

The wow factor alone makes Oceans, which opened Thursday, a great Earth Day/Earth Week at the movies.

We see vast armies of crabs on the floor of Melbourne harbor, sprinting pods of dolphins stretching to the horizon, a torrent of cormorants, neon-nosed cuttlefish, great white sharks and great blue whales.

And those are just the familiar sea creatures that this French documentary crew (the directors of Winged Migration were in charge) caught on film.

The blanket octopus of Australia looks like a Bedouin headdress floating in an undersea breeze. The ribbon eel winds and unwinds, stretching out like the contents of a broken video cassette. The ancient Asian sheepshead wrasse is an aquatic Jay Leno — all forehead and chin.

The messages are basic and nothing new. In the ocean, big fish eat little fish, sharks and orcas eat seals and sea lions (graphic), and frigate birds snap up baby sea turtles. But not all of them. And this seemingly infinite, seemingly inexhaustible resource is under grave threat from pollution, overfishing (through bottom-trawling) and simple apathy.

Unlike Winged Migration, Oceans has a narration (Pierce Brosnan provides the soothing voice), which ranges from the poetically purple to banal. "The ocean is a vast place" and "To really know the ocean, you have to live it," might sound plummy in Brosnan's dulcet tones. But even a 6-year-old could be forgiven for griping, "Well, duh."

Still, it's a movie of marvels, with many images so stunning as to trick the mind into thinking "special effects." But the movie magic here — mammals and fish, corals and crustaceans so strange, whimsical and blessedly numerous — is all Mother Nature's own.

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