Pandas Movie Review
The best part about the IMAX/Warner Bros. documentary Pandas is that it is only 42 minutes long. The rest of the film can best be described by Dr. Malcolm in Jurassic Park: “You might have dinosaurs on your, on your dinosaur tour, right?”
As far as nature documentaries go, Pandas should be a lay up. You take one of the cutest and clumsiest animals on the planet, follow them around with some cameras, and piece together the footage. You don’t even have to travel into the wild as Disneynature’s Born in China did--you can literally just go to a panda sanctuary and zoo.
Or grab footage from YouTube.
And yet, somehow, Pandas completely misses the mark.
From the weird, animated opening credits to what seems like minutes to get to the title creatures to the fact the movie then spends many seemingly long minutes with [admittedly cute] black bear cubs in North America, Pandas is an utterly dull documentary that has about 10% of the amount of panda footage you’d expect from a documentary about f**king pandas.
You might have pandas in your, on your panda documentary, right?
The documentary, when it is actually showing pandas on screen and not the various white dudes who apparently know more about bears than anyone else, follows Qian Qian (pronounced Chen Chen) as his handlers attempt to prepare him for life in the wild. Qian Qian is cute because, you know, he’s a panda, but filmmakers David Douglas and Drew Fellman make a few horrible miscalculations:
- Qian Qian’s story ends up being not very interesting, and ultimately not very successful. Good nature documentaries craft entertaining or insightful stories, and it feels as though the filmmakers felt so committed to their original story they were unwilling to steer off course for the sake of the audience.
- There are not nearly enough pandas doing panda things. While documentaries about wildlife should be inherently educational, they also need to be entertaining. Pandas could have literally just been 40 minutes of pandas playing, eating, sleeping, and falling off things and it would have been one of the best documentaries in the history of the world.
- The documentary needed to be more educational. The decision to focus on a single, raised-in-captivity panda, was just a mistake. Not only does Pandas not show a single wild panda, you don’t really learn anything about the animals that you don’t already know.
Pandas is just a stunning spectacle of not only missed opportunities, but missed easy opportunities. Just go on YouTube and you’ll find better material.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.