Ossus Library Index Non-Fiction Movie Index


Directed by George Casey (1999, Graphics Films)
Narrated by Robert Foxworth

The migrations of butterflies, sea birds, crabs, whales, and African plains animals.



3 stars

January 27th, 2001 on the OmniMAX dome

    Most parts were quite enjoyable, some more than others, but the movie suffers from jagged jumps and not enough connections between the various migrating animals.

Unfortunately, the most beautiful section, the opening with the butterflies, was the most boring. The beauty could not be denied, though, especially when we see millions of butterflies simply hanging around on trees in Mexico. The narrator does not have much to say about them, but lets their beauty do the talking. While the fleets of butterflies float like snow drifting across the continent, the air is suddenly very colourful, and it's neat to see that a single gust of wind from a schoolchild can cause a storm of activity, I thought that the close-up of a butterfly emerging from its cocoon was a little too close, especially on the OmniMAX dome. It takes three generations to make the round trip! Unfortunately, that's the last we see of the butterflies until the concluding remarks.

We move on to sea birds, and their migration route. There is very little to say about these that we don't know already, and I think they are given the shortest shift. While it's neat to see the V-shaped flock drifting across the skies, it's nothing that I haven't seen in greater splendor as I drive through the country in spring or fall.

More exotic are the whales that migrate from the Arctic Ocean down to Baja California, where they are welcomed like the special guests they are. This is by far the best story, and it includes a whale calf that is separated from its mother and beached on a nearby shore. Taken to SeaWorld, it is nursed back to health and waits to be released again for its northward migration in later months. In the southern regime, the whales are greeted by boats of tourists who want to see one of the giant beasts, and perhaps even touch it. I was completely in awe of the people in those boats, because one whale decided to introduce her calf to some of those tourists. They came close to the boats and surfaced in a gentle wave. Underwater cameras show that some of the boat's occupants reached under the water and were able to stroke the whales! Incredible. This is what the Whales IMAX should have dealt with more than the scientific aspects. It could have been so much more interesting.

But we have to cut to the next section of the movie, which deals with red crabs. The music in this part was outstanding. It pumped the energy level up, and with the fast speed of the film, the crabs danced their way to the spawning pools on the coast. Of course, the main interest here deals with the impact humans have on them. Playing tag with cars, crossing a golf course, and sneaking into people's houses seems to be a normal way of life -for both the crabs and the humans living there. In one scene, a family, including the cat, chases a bunch of crabs out of the house in the middle of the night. Once the mating dance is over, the males retreat to the forest while the females try to leave their fertilized eggs in the ocean -but they can't swim! In another awe-inspiring scene, the crab larvae climb from the surf onto the craggy rocks and mix with their much, much larger adult brethren!

Moving over to Africa, the circle of life is played out by zebras and other animals on the drying plains. Once wet season is over, the animals migrate to locations where there is more food and water. Lions and hyenas think this traveling chorus is a great fast food outlet. But the animals have learned to defend themselves. This section also touches on some human migrations, especially one in the long ago past when humans decided to move northwards, to Europe for the first time.

I truly enjoyed most of the scenery, and where so many animals were gathered together, whether they were butterflies, crabs or zebras, it was truly a sight to behold- especially on an IMAX screen. Also impressive was the tracing of the migration routes. A globe was projected, complete with stars outside it, and a snaking shadow was traced following the animals' paths. It was really neat.

What kept this movie from being truly enjoyable, though was the way it kept all the animals distinct, until the end. I think there were too many different migrations shown, and not enough time spent with each of them. The cuts were often quite drastic between segments. Unfortunately, we never get to delve too deep into the lives of any of the animals in any of the sections, so the entire thing is superficial. But what we do see is more-or-less enough. I only wish it was a little more smoothly put together.


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