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Film Review: 'Pandas' is an Engaging Look at One of Nature's Most Endearing Creatures

April 6, 2018Sherry Li

Pandas is a 40-minute IMAX documentary from directors David Douglas and Drew Fellman, which follows scientists at the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding in China, where they are attempting to introduce cubs born in captivity back into the wild.

The movie, narrated by Kristen Bell, is one of the most wholesome and unbelievably adorable movies ever made. Every moment of the film will warm your heart. It draws you in with the promise of cute, cuddly panda bear cubs and it keeps you intrigued with the stories of the people who are dedicated to these adorable bears. It's a very science-positive, family-friendly, inspiring film that brings you straight into to the lives of pandas and those who are trying to save them.

The movie begins in China, at the Chengdu Research Base, following a few young cubs that had just been born two months earlier. Of the cubs, the researchers are looking for ones with the right behaviors that may lead to success in the wild. Settling on a bright and curious female cub named Qian Qian and looking for guidance for how to transition captivity panda cubs into real panda terrain, the director of research from the panda base, Hou Rong, turns to an American, Ben Kilham, who has been rehabilitating brown bear cubs and releasing them back into the wild for over two decades.

Kilham's story is also particularly touching. You watch how he and his family interacts with the bears and grow to understand the beautiful bond they share. Kilham takes them on walks in the forest, feeds them, plays with them, and visits them, even years later.

With Kilham's help, Hou Rong decides to hire American conservation biologist Jake Owens, to facilitate Qian Qian's transition. Even Owens comments in the movie that he typically observes as a scientist, but in this role, he gets to play with Qian Qian and interact with her firsthand. At one point, he is even shown to be taking jiu-jitsu classes because as Qian Qian gets bigger and more challenging to handle, it gives him techniques to use as they play.

Not only is the content absolutely adorable, the visuals are stunning as well. IMAX really brings to life the gorgeous scenes, making you feel like you're right there with the bears. Bell also does a tremendous job narrating — her voice is so pleasant and quite lovely to listen to.

Overall, Pandas is a fantastic film and a great way for parents to get their kids interested in conservation biology. Even as an adult, I watched this movie and thought about a change in career path. There were many moments throughout where I teared up from being overwhelmed by how cute this film was. It's definitely a must-see for animal lovers, young or old.

Pandas releases April 6th, 2018 from Warner Bros. Pictures. The film has an MPAA rating of G. Its runtime is 40 min.

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