Under the Sea

Not since The Little Mermaid has Disney made the sea so compelling

This year, Earth Day is marked by the release of Oceans, a lush documentary by Disneynature about the magnificent waters that cover more than 70 percent of Earth’s surface, and the vast number of creatures that live there. Under Pierce Brosnan’s commanding narration, filmmakers Jacques Perrin and Jacques Cluzaud explore immense regions of the ocean’s depths to celebrate the wild and colorful herbivores, carnivores and detritivores (creatures that eat decomposing organic manner) that live there. Although it sounds like the kind of documentary you’ve seen a thousand times before, Oceans takes full advantage of state-of-the-art equipment to show audiences a crystal-clear vision of intriguing sea creatures, such as the Red Sea’s dugong marsa alam and the intricately cloaked garden eel, from Indonesia’s Lembeh Strait.

The filmmakers are careful to spend the majority of the film celebrating the dramatic and peaceful rituals of a wide variety of ocean animals, while punctuating the film eloquently and briefly with the enormous problem of plastics and pollution being dumped into the oceans. Most disturbing is satellite footage that shows the dark streams of pollution emanating from American rivers directly into the sea.

Modern audiences have such terrific access to wildlife programs on television that it’s easy to take for granted the work of filmmakers like Perrin and Cluzaud. But it would be a mistake to discount this film’s inspiring, informative and entertaining effect. On the Europa Island Mozambic Canal, tiny baby green turtles hatch from under plush white sand to make a mad dash for the shoreline before being gobbled up by swarms of attacking birds that swoop down on their young, helpless prey. In California’s Coronado Canyon, a gigantic humpback whale gobbles up thousands of tiny orange krill in a single gulp. In the Arctic, blubbery Coburg walruses wallow together on the ice in familial tenderness. And the list goes on. There’s a profound thrill that comes as the camera glides along with a huge team of dolphins as they speed through the surface of the water, constantly jetting out to soar through the air for brief spins of pure joy.

Without Jacques Cousteau’s lifelong contributions to oceanic exploration, a film like Oceans would not be possible. When asked what he saw as the biggest threat to our planet, Jacques Cousteau said that by far it was our population explosion. America’s population has more than doubled since Cousteau made that statement. If anything, Oceans makes us aware that sea creatures are people, too.

In an effort at improving an essential part of the ocean floor, Disneynature is donating a portion of the film’s first-week proceeds to save our coral reefs.

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