Whales

Newcity Chicago

DIRECTED BY: David Clark

REVIEWED: 02-02-98

"Whales" takes the underwater educational film to a new level. The directors are bona-fide whale researchers David Clark, Al Giddings and Dr. Roger Payne, it is filmed in six different beautiful locations, and shares several cool little details, like how the blue whale's largest arteries are big enough for a child to crawl through. Patrick Stewart is a very appropriate underwater Omnimax film narrator; and Yanni, famous among the diaper set for tunes like "Baby Beluga," does the soundtrack. But most importantly, "Whales" is an example of expert underwater camera work from Giddings, the cinematographer for "The Abyss." The bulk of the story follows the yearly trek of the humpback whale from Hawaii to Alaska, with a focus on subjects like how their songs travel distances of up to 1,000 miles or how they can survive on fatty blubber during periods of plankton deficit. There is also a touching "mama whale/baby whale" scene, as well as the expected "save the whales" stuff here and there. But "Whales" also includes several minutes of disconnected blue whale footage, which is fine because they are the largest mammals ever to exist on Earth; a brief cameo appearance by the killer whales, but not long enough to quench anyone's secret thirst for gore and violence; and the dolphins, too small and plentiful to be as awe-inspiring as their gigantic and sometimes dangerous relatives. Surprisingly, the highlight is the right whale, who "plays" by sticking his (her?) tail out of the water in order to cruise around in full-sail mode, whizzing around the bay and flopping around spastically. Sitting at a 30-degree angle staring at a 75-foot diameter screen, you truly feel like you are splashing around with the big guys.

--Kevin L. Campbell

Film Vault Suggested Links
Secret People
Bird by Bird with Annie
The Living Museum

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