Arctic: Our Frozen Planet – Baby, It’s Cold Outside

Admittedly, it seems odd to think about global warming in the midst of a polar vortex.

But, nevertheless, it?s reality. And the toll that it?s taking on our Arctic tundra is changing our world forever.

Now playing at the Canadian Museum of History, Arctic: Our Frozen Planet invites the viewer to embark on an adventure across the Great White North. Shot over the course of a year, the film transports the viewer into a world of narwhals, polar bears, caribou and more as they attempt to survive in the frozen wilderness. But with the climate changing more rapidly than ever before, can its people and wildlife keep pace?

Narrated by Benedict Cumberbatch, Arctic: Our Frozen Planet is another visually stunning piece by BBC Earth. Over the last two decades, BBC Earth has redefined the nature documentary by offering footage unlike anything we had seen befor by capturing the scope of the natural world in stunning detail. As the camera pans over the incredible terrain, one cannot help but feel insignificant against the massive Arctic tundra. This is the sort of filmmaking for which IMAX was designed and it will be served well on the big screen.

This is an enormous world. And we are just one tiny piece of it.

At the same time though, Frozen Planet also manages to bring the viewer incredibly close to its subjects. Arctic seals swimming playfully under the water, walruses bathing in the sun and, of course, polar bear families looking for a feast are all featured with intimate closeness. (Although, for Cumberbatch?s sake, note the lack of ?penguins? on screen for him to narrate.) In doing so, Frozen Planet is able to reveal the tiniest details of the lives of its subjects, speaking to their abilities to care for their young or even just the thrill of the hunt. Like so many other BBC Earth products, this balance of broad strokes vs. close narratives helps create a sense of awe within the viewer for the beauty of creation and the natural world. 

However, despite its celebration of nature, Frozen Planet?s greatest concern revolves around the effects of global warming. Highlighting the changing ocean patterns and struggles of the animal world that come as a direct result of melting ice flows, Frozen Planet outlines the ways that these changes to the environment effect the rest of the world. Despite the fact that these falling sheets of ice (some of which ?are taller than the Empire State Building?) may exists thousands of miles away from us, their destruction affects everything around us. In this way, the film serves as a call to action for the viewer, inviting them to get involved. While it admittedly offers few direct answers of what can be done, Frozen Planet is designed to raise concern and awareness within the viewer in an effort to help prevent further damage.

Although, if there?s a criticism of the film, it?s due to its length. Clocking in at just under an hour, the film is perfectly suited for its use at the museum but, as a result, offers less detail than other BBC Projects. In other words, because of its brevity, less time is devoted to details in order to offer broad strokes of the entire terrain. While this is a minor quibble, one may find themselves wanting more information as a result. (Though, I suppose this can also lead to their own research or reviewing of other similar BBC Earth projects.)

Even so, Arctic: Our Frozen Planet accomplishes its goal. The film is yet another example of how BBC Earth continues to be the forerunner in cinematic explorations of the natural world by creating experiences designed to instill a sense of wonder yet also a desire for change. After all, this planet may be frozen but it remains Our Frozen Planet.

To hear our interview with polar bear expert Eric Regehr, click here.

Arctic: Our Frozen Planet?is available at the Canadian Museum of History beginning Saturday, February 4, 2023.

Leave a Reply