Going into Polar Bear, I was expecting to receive an icy, environmental lecture. Fortunately, that wasn’t the case… exactly.
Polar Bear, a nature documentary which is released just in time for Earth Day, follows a family of three from Ursus maritimus. A mother bear and two cubs — a male and a female — grunt, growl and bark while attempting to survive the melting Arctic landscape. The story spans 15 years of a bear’s life. The ice is their home, but the open ocean is where they live.
Catherine Keener narrates in the first person, first as the thoughts and reactions of the Mother Bear, then as its cubs while the young ones learn to swim, hunt and live. At first, hearing an actor speak the animals’ thoughts is distracting, but the script doesn’t feel forced — it’s basically natural. And that’s important, when dealing with mother nature.
The mother is the center of their world, but life is a lonely island as a polar bear. After living together for nearly three years, the young ones are on their own for solitary wandering, exploring and adventures.
Lessons are learned throughout this Disneynature release, which are just as important for the human race. There’s almost always going to be hardships whenever a family loses a member and competition for a full tummy is fierce (seaweed is ALWAYS a last-resort meal).
“Those who took the risks were the ones who ate…”
Only by overcoming fears will these creatures truly grow — much like us. Their newfound confidence, playful spirits and the ability to adapt to an evolving landscape are great to see. The cubs are so innocently cute, it’s an eye-watering experience. But it’s even greater thanks in part to the impeccable aerial photography (during the concluding scenes, I thought I heard helicopter or drone motors).
Directed by Alastair Fothergill, there’s a good reason this movie felt familiar: The filmmaker previously produced BBC’s Planet Earth series and The Blue Planet for The Discovery Channel (I happened to enjoy both, btw). Fothergill has filmed polar bears for more than 20 years, so he knows a thing or two about their habits and habitats, but this is the first Disneynature film to be rated PG.
Even though it feels like an all-ages film, it very briefly touches upon death and mating — which are both a part of life. I’m kind of surprised by the rating, even though I wouldn’t have any problems with young ones watching it.
If there’s one thing I learned from Polar Bear, it’s that supper’s a sloppy ordeal for these critters and that ice bears don’t know much about table manners. They often require a dip in the ocean to fully clean the leftovers off themselves. That’s sage advice for two-legged hunters, as well.
As a longtime fan of nature documentaries (and snowy environments, in particular), I enjoyed my time watching this film. I will always be intrigued by polar bears and know they will continue adapting in order to survive.
Brought to life by the directing team behind Disneynature’s Penguins, Polar Bear premieres exclusively on Disney+ today, April 22nd, 2022.