Theatrical Review: BORN TO BE WILD 3D
In BORN TO BE WILD 3D, director David Lickley brings his audience not one, but two unforgettable stories about the depths of human compassion and animal resilience. The film follows the startlingly similar stories of Dr. Birute Mary Galidakas (who runs the Orangutan Care Center and Quarantine in Borneo) and Dr. Dame Daphne M. Sheldrick (who runs a similar organization in Kenya, but in service to elephants). Both women have dedicated their lives to healing and helping orphaned animals, and both have pioneered new methods of doing so with the aim of returning those orphans to the wild.
The film highlights the more intangible aspects of orphan care, as Drs. Galidaks and Sheldrick both aim to heal their orphans physically and emotionally, placing an emphasis on keeping the elephants and orangutans feeling happy and, here’s the tough part, genuinely loved. Elephants and orangutans have different styles of socialization and affection, and it’s up to their various caregivers to recognize and respect that. Elephants are highly social animals, so young orphans need to constantly feel integrated, both with the other elephants in the elephant camp and the dedicated keepers who nurture them. Similarly, the first year of an infant orangutan’s life plays out much like that of a human infant’s – lots of care and coddling. Later in life, orangutans are considerably more independent, so Dr. Galdikas and the Center make sure that the primates retain a sense of independence and an inherent wildness that will allow them to survive and thrive when they are released back out into their natural habitat.
The work that Galidakas and Sheldrick do is both professionally engaging and personally consuming. The orphans that come to their respective centers are traumatized and devastated – they are there because they have lost their mothers and (often in the case of the elephants) their entire familial herd. Heartbreakingly, the orphans typically play witness to these deaths, and sometimes even need to be physically removed from the bodies of their brethren (especially when it comes to the orangutans, who literally grow up on their mothers’ backs). Despite this emotionally devastating set-up, BORN TO BE WILD manages to be a lovely, family-friendly film.
At only forty minutes long, BORN TO BE WILD is a wonderful piece of entertainment for families, but anyone looking for the film to go deeply into the amazing stories at its heart will surely be disappointed. The film works well as more of an “experience” documentary – it’s not long enough or deep enough to feel truly informative. But this works to allow the film to feel very accessible to even the littlest audience members. Kids will be captivated by the immersive visuals, while adults will be much more prone to catch the heavy details of the various tragedies that brought these animal orphans to their new homes.
A joint effort between Warner Bros. Pictures and IMAX Filmed Entertainment, BORN TO BE WILD is also a bit of a technical marvel. Immersive as it is in IMAX 3D, it’s not hard to overlook the effort that went into bringing the stories of Galidakas, Sheldrick, and their orphans to screen at first blush. Director of photography David Douglas worked with IMAX to develop a new camera for the film – a digital 3D IMAX camera that is both lighter and quieter than its predecessors, a camera that allowed the filmmakers to get closer to their subjects with less distraction. It’s to their credit that, despite the film’s presentation in both IMAX and 3D, its style never feels overwhelming, it’s simply engaging.
The film straddles a touchy line – any more fact-based and it would likely thoroughly upset its young viewers. As is, BORN TO BE WILD should inspire a level of interest and appreciation for the wild kingdom and its inhabitants without making kids cry uncontrollably (sensitive adults, however, may not get away from it as easily). In short, BORN TO BE WILD is a captivating and charming slice of documentary filmmaking perfect for a family outing. So captivating and charming on its own, in fact, that it’s easy to forget that the film is narrated by Morgan Freeman and scored by Mark Mothersbaugh. In a film where the real heroes are two passionate women and the real stars are whole packs of baby elephants and young orangutans, that extra flash is just icing on the (banana) cake.