This documentary is very effective at making you sad for orcas in the first half, and somewhat less effective in the latter half where it ignores all of that and focuses on how SeaWorld is constantly trying to slip out of legal trouble. The emotional human/orca elements are fantastic and troubling, but when it moves on to shitty business practices and the money made from jerking off an orca (Which could be its own movie, and holy shit I didn’t expect to see orca dick all of a sudden, what the fuck was that), it loses some traction, and feels a bit mechanical. But where else are you going to put the story of a captive orca who gradually learns to spice up his super-boring life of imprisonment by hurting people? I don’t know if this is at all relevant, but I’ve never seen Free Willy. I wouldn’t be surprised to see a CGI kid’s movie about orcas pretty soon, but maybe Free Willy already drained that well of potential decades ago. If I watch Free Willy now, will I be able to avoid channeling Twelve Years a Slave?
I learned a few things and was strongly provoked by the compelling opening… so yeah, it’s worth your time to check it out.
SeaWorld has, of course, strongly accused this documentary of being misleading and libelous, and that it is “merely” anti-captivity propaganda. That last bit is… well… duh, right? Some of the documentary is, technically, misleading (But in the name of the narrative they are pursuing, which is necessary when making something you want people to watch and like). But they sure seem unable to refute the film’s claims that they are liars and charlatans, or the film’s assertions of orca intelligence, the conditions they are kept in, and how it affects their health and life expectancy!
I guess we’ll see how things shake out, but it can’t be a bad start (On either side of the debate) to raise awareness of the topic. Before this documentary, all I knew about SeaWorld was that it was a depressing and boring place to visit.