Who doesn’t like watching baby sea otters at play? There’s probably someone out there that doesn’t, but for the most part Disney’s Oceans offers an entertaining and very family-friendly glimpse at the many wonders of the deep that should appeal to anyone not opposed to nature. While the film examines a wide variety of marine life, from the common (clownfish, spider crabs) to the obscure (whale sharks, ribbon eels) to the truly bizarre (stonefish, sheepshead wrasse), you won’t find much in the way of the actual “circle of life” save for a tragic glance at the life expectancy of daylight-born baby turtles. It’s truly a “Disneyfied” affair with the focus mainly on gorgeous cinematography and unscathed fish with the vicious battles for life and inevitably bloody shark feedings edited out. Beginning with the question, “What is the ocean?” Jacques Perrin and Jacques Cluzaud’s documentary examines all manner of sea life in a variety of oceanic locations around the world. Narrated by Pierce Brosnan, Oceans traces the migration of humpback whales, the symbiosis of different species of fish, a word or two on evolution, the mother and child relationship of the walrus, the uncharted, alien-like appearance of sea urchin larva and crustacean eggs and more, all while intermittently introducing several fantastical oddities of the deep.
As expected, Oceans merely touches upon the surface of sea life, giving us a brief glimpse of the amazingly vast world of marine biology. It’s certainly not in-depth, leaving out most of the specific names of creatures and allowing us to simply watch the various ocean inhabitants go about their daily routines. Anyone who has seen National Geographic specials will likely be bored with this generic animal documentary, but it is a decent introduction for general audiences that might not be able to sit through more scientific focuses. Either way, watching a puzzled seal toy with a shopping cart underwater in a polluted river, or spying a garden eel and razorfish ballet, is an amusing way to spend an evening.
Like The Matrix, “You have to see it for yourself,” claims narrator Brosnan, who rambles on rather pointlessly, his poetic dialogue lightly tying together changes in scenery. The film is incredibly visual, however, leaving little necessary for him to describe. The most appealing elements of Oceans are the moments of natural humor that stem from fat, lazy sea lions basking in the sun, the stunning beauty of a blanket octopus’ rippling crimson, silken scarf-like appendages, and the clever editing and music that accompanies diving birds, sardines and dolphins that glide and scurry in a carefully orchestrated symphony of life and death. The movie doesn’t educate as much as it probably should, and begs to be criticized with its preachy message of preserving blue tuna before Mother Nature strikes back with colossal waves of destruction. But with damselfish in distress, giant, human-sized jellyfish and toothy great white sharks, Oceans does provide inspiringly breathtaking footage. Too bad we’re forced to watch hundreds of cute little baby sea turtles perish before the narrator informs us of their 1/1000 chance of survival.- The Massie Twins