Friday, February 17, 2006

Going to the dogs at "Eight Below"

Jerry Shepherd is a 'dogman' at the Antarctica outpost of the National Science Federation. The year is 1993 and winter is coming on as it is late January, and of course the seasons are the reverse of what they are in the northern hemisphere. Jerry has eight wonderful huskies and malamutes specifically trained for 'mushing' all over Antartica, for rescue missions and the like. They are remarkable, resilient animals and of course the real stars of this movie are these dogs. Though "March of the Penguins" has the same setting and ethos of the cold forbidding, dangerous Antarctica, this movie has human stars as well, but as various of the reviews at "Rottentomatoes.com" have pointed out, the animals are more human and show more emotion than the humans for the most part. Compared to these dogs, even those penguins look like stuffed shirts.

The movie is just short of two hours in length, and is PG, which I am sure Disney was relieved to hear, because clearly this is a family film that one would want to take even small children to. The heart and pathos of the story is caused by the fact that due to a winter storm, the dogs had to be left at the NSF post while all the humans escapted to New Zealand and beyond for the winter. How and whether the dogs would survive for over six months on their own until Jerry and friends could return provides us with the meat of the story. The producer was wise enough to remember that cute or courageous animals always upstage humans, and so one should give the bulk of the story to the animals.

As one watches these dogs manifest time and again many qualities one could wish humans normally manifested (courage, loyalty, affection bordering on unconditional love, comradery, sacrifice for others, and an uncanny knack for survival), one realizes quite clearly why so many people love animals more than they love people! It also leads one to ponder whether we might not think of considering such animals as role models ahead of most humans. It also reminds us that while God created human beings to rule (rather than ruin) the world, it does not follow from this fact that we have nothing to learn from the lower orders of creatures. There is perhaps also a subtle message in this film about how we need to treat such animals with the respect they deserve as fellow creatures of God. Fortunately Jerry Shepherd gets the point, and it is his dogged determination and doglike loyalty to his dogs that proves to be the redeeming feature of this film. This one is for everyone, and is the first real feel-good film of 2006.

9 comments:

Cyndee said...

Thanks, Ben, for the movie review; I will have to see it! There are so few movies out there that are worth the time these days!! I love that you are encouraging others to learn from animals. God taught me a great lesson while observing my dog go through an ordeal, which for him seemed life-ending. However, he made it through and we both learned a thing or two!!

Onward and Upward!

Ben Witherington said...

Thanks Cyndee--- perhaps you caught my March of the Penguins review as well.

Blessings,

Ben W.

Questing Parson said...

Great post, Ben. Just last evening my wife asked me, "Do you like animals better than people."

I replied, "Well, yessss!"

I think I'll take her to this movie. Perhaps it will contribute to her understanding.

davebeals said...

Great flick. I saw it last night. The scenery was fantastic. Were parts of it actually shot in Antartica or was this shot somewhere else or is this another "computerized miracle"??? Dave

Ben Witherington said...

I gather it was actually shot in Antarctica.... at least in part....

How bout them dawgs----- I want one.

Josh said...

The movie was great...my wife and I both love dogs, so this was a 'must see!'

I have heard that the majority of the movie was shot in Canada...the Northern Territory I believe. Some of the scenes involving the fly-by shots were on location. At least that's what cable TV has told me:).

Ben Witherington said...

I have read now the ESV response to what I have said. Some of this is helpful clarification, some of it frankly doesn't tell the whole story, especially in regard to the hearing the TNIV committee gave to one of the leading catalysts involved with the production of the ESV who was upset with the NIV/ TNIV translation. Its time to move on to more substantive issues. I still find this whole story a bit sad and sordid. It just shows that Evangelicals, and I mean all of us, have a hard time getting along, or living up to James 3.

Tim said...

Just came back from watching 'Eight Below'. I've never been in Antarctica but spent seven years in the Canadian Arctic, and did quite a bit of travelling on the land (though with skidoos not dogs), so I could almost feel the bite of that wind! It was a great movie and I appreciate your positive review, Ben. I wasn't as negative about the human characters as some of the other reviewers have been - I thought that for the most part they were well done.

Russ Davis said...

In short, the typical leftist fleshly spirit of synergism-arminianism that belittles the things of God and prefers idolatrous PG movies about man and animals, the devil's/idiots' screen counterpart to the devil's/idiots' box of TV only watched by stupid illiterates that sadly also comprises most of today's "scholars" that can't pass the college ENTRANCE exams of the 1700s but are allowed to teach college students at least as incompetently as the government condom assembly factories mislabeled schools beneath them. The question is, does it make me love Jesus more? Clearly not, typical for synergists-arminians, a further dumbing down of an already compromised and worldly synertistic church that thinks it is God. Newsflash: God hates James 4 adultery-idolatry, and one need only to look at what happened to Dagon to see what God may well bring if He doesn't grant us repentance-revival to return to Him and be saved from otherwise certain destruction we kid ourselves isn't on the horizon or perhaps even breaking down our doors to destroy us this second. God save us. And maybe when-if He destroys the west as He did China the damnation of the worldly and the purification of His saints will give us as vibrant and effective a Church as those who have not been ashamed of the Gospel but given their lives for it as we wickedly have not, preferring PG movies on the devil's/idiots' box or screen unconcerned about love for Jesus and so unconcerned about true love for our neighbor's eternal suffering, not just the temporal variety of a few decades before a Christless eternity that seems to concern so many synergists so little.