Underwater camera work gets high marks
By CRAIG WANOUS
Underwater photography and special effects are combined in this film.
This documentary tells the story of one baby turtle and its fight for survival against tremendous odds. There are a lot of facts and figures quoted in the film, but the key statistic is that, out of every 10,000 eggs, only 1 hatchling will likely survive to adulthood. The heart of the film is the tale of a turtle's life over a span of 25 years and with some stunning, breath-taking scenes above and under the sea, the movie is worth watching for the cinematography alone. Our tiny turtle begins life literally buried in the sand on a Florida beach and, after a dangerous run for the ocean, her journey continues at sea for the next quarter century, until our intrepid heroine returns to that same exact beach to lay her eggs. Along the way, she must struggle to survive against all sorts of perils and predators, including the most dangerous peril of all - us.
"Turtle" was directed by Nick Stringer, an Emmy-winning producer and director, who uses the film as a way to show the plight of endangered species and the need for ocean conservation. Not a bad message, and the crew filmed all over the Caribbean and Atlantic to capture rare footage of turtles.
But some scenes were filmed using rescued turtles in a "specially built marine studio." Stringer says that in some scenes "the interactions between the characters were digitally enhanced with the latest in special FX and blue-screen technology."
One FX expert wrote that the visual special-effects "footage of 3-D 'wild animals' I helped produce for 'Turtle' was so realistic even 'expert zoologists' didn't know what they were watching." He continued, "Besides final modeling and texturing and animation of three photorealistic 3-D hero turtle characters indistinguishable in every way from real turtles, I modeled textured and animated blue sharks and composited and supervised almost 100 photorealistic documentary realism shots."
That means that much of "Turtle: The Incredible Journey" was created on a computer or in a studio. So can "Turtle" claim to be a documentary? Or is it a docudrama instead? What's real and what's not? Does it really matter? I'll leave that up to the viewer to decide. Manufacturing reality isn't new in documentaries and I believe the story of our turtle's life and voyage is worth telling, even if there is a little Hollywood magic involved.
The negative aspects are the ever-present narration and the blaring musical score.
Writer Melanie Finn, best known for her work on the erotic made-for-cable films "Red Shoe Diaries," seems unable to leave that melodrama behind and the narration, by a serious Miranda Richardson ('Enchanted April'), is overly theatrical.
Moses was probably less dramatic when he brought the Ten Commandments down from the mountain. And the music swells and booms as if in competition with the narration to see which can be more over-the-top. Conductor and composer Elmer Bernstein would love it.
But even with those two strikes against it, I do think "Turtle" is worth seeing. The striking ocean scenes will enthrall nature lovers and environmentalists will appreciate the ecological message of the film. And if other viewers can just tune out the sound and enjoy the cinematography, I think they'll enjoy it too.