The title of “pandas,” a forty-minute documentary pretty much says it all. There’s some scientific content, a heroic biologist or two, a whimsical score by Devo’s Mark Mothersbaugh and narration by Kristen Bell but mostly there are pandas in IMAX and in 3D. That is both all you need to know and essentially my review.
Pandas are, Bell tells us, the King Kongs of cute who “inspire a frenzy of adoration around the world.” Beyond the cute, however, is a serious problem. Lack of genetic diversity, fragmented habitats and isolated panda groups could lead to extinction of pandas in the wild. To remedy this a group of scientists at Chengdu Panda Base in China, inspired by a black bear breeding program in New Hampshire, are cultivating giant pandas with an eye toward introducing cubs to the wild. The film follows Qian Qian a panda born in captivity destined for the wild.
To a soundtrack populated by Baby-Boomer hits from ZZ Top and The Ramones, we watch as connections are made between people, cultures and animals, all united to save the wild panda. The photography, in beautiful full screen IMAX, is breathtaking, the message is intriguing but it is the cute that lingers. You will never enjoyed anything as much as Qian Qian enjoys eating bamboo shoots and if oversized pictures of him snacking is what it takes to alert you to the crisis facing his species, so be it.
Come for the pandas, their soulful eyes and playful nature, stay for the ecological message.
Panda is confirmed to open in Toronto on April 28th, 2018 at Ontario Science Centre.