Written by David DiGilio
Directed by Frank Marshall
Running Time: 1:58
for some peril and brief mild language.
Eight Below was a fun, and sometimes sad, film that started off strong, but slowed down tremendously in the second half.
Down in the southern part of the planet, Jerry is a guide who, along with his eight sled dogs, leads people to wherever they want to go. During one trip, they get caught in a massive storm, and the man Jerry is guiding, breaks his leg and needs to be evacuated immediately. There is no room on the small plane for the dogs, so Jerry is forced to leave them behind, thinking he'll be able to go back for them within a day. But once they party arrives at their destination, they are told all flights are grounded until spring. Jerry tries in vain to get back to his dogs, but months go by and he gives up hope of ever seeing them alive again. But he vows to go back because he owes his dogs that much respect. And what he finds awaiting him upon his return gives him the surprise of his life.
As I said, the first half of Eight Below was pretty good. The scenery was breathtaking, the characters were entertaining, and the dogs were really damn cute. Each one had their own distinct personality and hey, who doesn't like dogs? At least from a distance. So the movie starts and Jerry and Davis head out to find a meteorite from Mercury and get caught in a bad storm. The scene where Davis falls into the icy cold water and is rescued by Jerry and the dogs is pretty spectacular and realistic looking. They did a really good job with the makeup, making both men look like they were really close to death. The dogs were pushed to the limit and they managed to get the two guys back to the main base without further incident. That was the first 45 minutes or so of the movie. Lots of good action and you really got to like the dogs. But then the dogs were left behind and what happened after that was a long series of watching Jerry try and get back to them.
The film cuts back and forth between Jerry trying to find someone willing to brave the Antarctic winter and take him back to get the dogs, and the dogs themselves, chained up waiting for Jerry to return. The scenes with Jerry became somewhat long and unnecessary. Yes, it was sweet that he tried really hard to get back and that leaving the dogs behind was something that hurt him tremendously, but it went on too long. Watching the dogs deal with being left alone, now that was entertaining. It was also extremely manipulative, since every time we cut back to the dogs they would put up a count of how long the dogs had been left alone. Considering the movie clocks in at about two hours, which seems very long for this kind of movie, I think the filmmakers would have been better served to leave Jerry alone and focus more on the dogs. They were the stars of the film.
Watching all the dogs deal with the harsh weather was kind of hard to deal with. The temperatures were around 30 to 50 below zero and although the dogs are furry I can't imagine that kind of weather is pleasant. Then the fact they were left chained up and outdoors is even worse. Thankfully most of them were able to escape the chains, which saved their lives. They were very resourceful dogs, and surprisingly smart. First they teamed up to chase down some birds, then they managed to steal a beached whale from a large and scary leopard seal. The scene with the leopard seal may have been the best, and most disgusting, scene in the movie. First off, the whale was partially eaten, which was a little nasty to look at, and the leopard seal was the one doing the eating, but his entrance was a scary surprise and will definitely scare the audience. Then there's an elaborate chase as one dog tries to lure the seal away so the other dogs can eat. The entire sequence was pretty impressive. It's not giving away a whole lot to say at least some of the dogs survive, but the end of the movie was somewhat anticlimactic. Rescuing the dogs wasn't really a large part of the movie; it was mostly about showing how amazing these dogs were and how they dealt with life alone. Had the second half of the movie showed less humans, I think the movie could have been tremendously entertaining. But all those scenes with Jerry in different parts of the country slowed the movie down too much to allow me to really get into it.
THE BOTTOM LINE
So overall, I was pleasantly surprised with Eight Below. As long as you like dogs and can handle a little sadness, you'll enjoy the movie as well. It has some good action sequences, some wonderful scenery and some amazing dogs.
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