So, this G-rated short delivers exactly what it promises. It went out to IMAX 3-D earlier this year and, skeptical as I am about 3-D, well, forty minutes in the company of IMAX pandas isn’t that hard to get on board with. It would be tempting to just say “It is what it is,” but that’s not really fair. I saw the IMAX 3-D short about lemurs a couple of years ago and I found it to be pretty disappointing. But this one just really, really works. It’s got a compelling story as a group of researchers try to figure out how to go about releasing pandas bred in captivity into the wild. There’s plenty of footage of cuddly panda cubs tipping over and squealing and, you know, all that stuff. But there’s also a kind of interesting journey with Qian Qian, the main panda that we follow in this film, as the researchers do their best to train her in the abilities she’ll need in the wild. The relationships that form between the researchers and the pandas are sweet and the ultimate journey to release Qian Qian and monitor her for a time is a compelling one and the film ends up feeling more than a little philosophical (okay, okay, pop philosophical) with its narrative about finding your way into a bigger world by getting out of your comfort zone. Anyway, it’s a wonderful documentary short, beautifully shot, wonderfully crafted. It’s just an experience of pure happiness. 4 stars.
tl;dr – it is what it is, but it’s also a lot more than that; beautifully shot, perfectly crafted documentary short is fascinating, compelling and wonderful. 4 stars.