Film

The Latest Melting Glaciers Doc Antarctic Edge Doesn’t Waste Time With Ice Porn

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By now, sobering docs about melting ice at the ends of the world are a reliable source of pleasure and anxiety: Gape at the glacial peaks, the whirling starscapes, the electric-chiffon dance of the northern and/or southern lights. Laugh with the penguins and admire their hardiness. Dream of what it might be like to be one of the scientists stapling trackers to waterfowl or plumbing icebergs for core samples. And tremble at what their findings mean for the rest of us.

Informative and workmanlike, Antarctic Edge is more a bad-news rundown than one of the meditative masterpieces of the genre. (Last year gave us two: Daniel Dencik’s Expedition to the End of the World and Anthony Powell’s sublime Antarctica: A Year on Ice.)

Here, we’re hanging with English-speaking scientists, who are somewhat blasé about the god-sized beauty around them. “Let’s go make some sweet, sweet science,” they say, in their boats, before testing a hypothesis involving krill-pee. They’re attempting to determine the growth rate of bacteria in seas that aren’t as frozen as they used to be, an effort to understand — as they put it — “how the ecology responds to the greatest global experiment ever conducted.”

By “experiment” they mean something awful and unintentional: They’re trying to work out what exactly the ocean’s inability to process all the carbon we’re dumping into it will mean for the planet. What they find is scarier than what their predecessors turned up in The Thing and The Thing From Another World, and they explain it with such clarity and force you might feel bad for wishing the movie would let you Zen out to the landscape more often.