Movie Review Friday: Turtle: The Incredible Journey
Escape to the movies with one of our Movie Review Friday selections. Each week we review a film with an environmental theme. Seen a good eco-flick lately? Send us a short review and look for it in the next Movie Review Friday.
One of the hardest things about making a good documentary is dramatizing real life without crossing the line into fiction. Accomplishing that feat takes hard study, subtlety, and time. Turtle: The Incredible Journey certainly dramatizes the plight of the loggerhead turtle, but it does not do so in the most accurate of ways.
Narrated by Miranda Richardson and expertly shot, Turtle guides the viewer through an underwater dream sequence, drifting along with the turtle and with Richardson’s haiku-like words. The baby turtle happens upon a piece of trash—certain death if swallowed—and the viewer hears, “How shiny it is to a young turtle / How tempting / And if she swallows it / She could die." Poetic and unorthodox for a documentary.
We follow what appears to be one turtle through the first 21 years of her life, from her dangerous first crawl to her first eggs on the same beach. The turtle is graceful, ancient, guided (we are told) by the magnetic forces that cause the Northern Lights. She is otherworldly, but also made weirdly human.
The film’s directors created action by anthropomorphizing the turtle—a crab bites a fish and the camera snaps back to a terrified turtle frown, for example. Later, an adolescent turtle chomps ruthlessly through another crab. “Revenge,” the narrator says simply.
The result is visually pleasing, and will hold the interest of fidgety kids, but is by no means scientifically accurate. It is, however, entertaining. This reviewer was compelled enough by it that she visited the Save Our Seas link that appears at the end of the film. In the age of Meerkat Manor, then, the question that emerges is whether or not it’s wrong to make animals seem human—if it helps make people care.