National Parks Adventure
By Ann Coates
The latest addition to the considerable MacGillivray Freeman Films Large Format oeuvre is National Parks Adventure, a film that contains all the expected characteristics of an MFF film — the outdoors, fun activities, innocuous musical soundtrack, and above all else, simply beautiful images. The film perhaps contains the most dazzling imagery of the natural world that director Greg MacGillivray has ever captured.
Narrated by Robert Redford, a road trip with mountaineer Conrad Anker and friends frames the film and narrative. Through Anker, photographer Max Low, and artist Rachel Pohl, the audience travels to several national parks to experience the innate beauty of the American wilderness. The film captures our three adventurers on various activities, from rock climbing to ice climbing to kayaking and mountain biking. Such recreation is nice enough adding some hint of adventure, but really just feels like a cliché expression of “one with nature.”
More compelling are the films quiet moments when not a single person is around, and the camera allows the landscape to simply sit before us. Here the film in a sense becomes a meditation on beauty without comment. It is an act of looking, and with just that expresses the indescribable beauty of the natural world. And the images within the film are quite spectacular from the reflections of a green valley on clear, translucent water to the diverse, other-worldly colors seen within a steaming geyser.
An addition of 3D is a nice touch, but not absolutely necessary to experience the wonder of this film. Simply by presenting these splendid images of our national parks compels one with a desire to protect and conserve what could ultimately be lost through thoughtless, callous human behavior. On a side note, communicated throughout the film are Native American beliefs of the natural world, beliefs based on respect and appreciation. But not one Native American appears on screen or in any significant role within the film. We only glimpse this perspective distantly, disconnected from the actual activities onscreen. Makes climbing a millennia-old rock or biking down a pristine mountain seem a bit arrogant, but I’ll just sit here and sip my tea.