Click to Skip Ad
Closing in...
Watch: New Hilarious Red-Band Trailer For 'The Interview' Starring Seth Rogen And James Franco Watch: New Hilarious Red-Band Trailer For 'The Interview' Starring Seth Rogen And James Franco Fantastic Fest Review: Hitman Thriller 'John Wick' Starring Keanu Reeves, Willem Dafoe & Adrianne Palicki Fantastic Fest Review: Hitman Thriller 'John Wick' Starring Keanu Reeves, Willem Dafoe & Adrianne Palicki Watch: First Trailer For Tim Burton's 'Big  Eyes' Starring Amy Adams And Christoph Waltz Watch: First Trailer For Tim Burton's 'Big Eyes' Starring Amy Adams And Christoph Waltz 'Deadpool’ Spin-Off With Ryan Reynolds Is Finally Green Lit, Set For A Winter 2016 Release Date 'Deadpool’ Spin-Off With Ryan Reynolds Is Finally Green Lit, Set For A Winter 2016 Release Date First Look: Cobie Smulders & Guy Pearce In Andrew Bujalski's 'Results' First Look: Cobie Smulders & Guy Pearce In Andrew Bujalski's 'Results' 10 Films We Haven’t Yet Seen That May Be Serious Oscar Contenders 10 Films We Haven’t Yet Seen That May Be Serious Oscar Contenders Watch: Oscar Isaac And Jessica Chastain Are At War In First Trailer For 'A Most Violent Year' Watch: Oscar Isaac And Jessica Chastain Are At War In First Trailer For 'A Most Violent Year' Review: 'The Maze Runner' Starring Dylan O'Brien, Kaya Scodelario, Patricia Clarkson, Will Poulter And More Review: 'The Maze Runner' Starring Dylan O'Brien, Kaya Scodelario, Patricia Clarkson, Will Poulter And More Exclusive: Matthew McConaughey Won’t Be Back For ‘Magic Mike XXL,’ Director Says Sequel Will Be “Very Different” Exclusive: Matthew McConaughey Won’t Be Back For ‘Magic Mike XXL,’ Director Says Sequel Will Be “Very Different” David Fincher Says He Shouldn't Have Directed 'The Game,' Dislikes Superhero Movies & Talks "Crazy" '20,000 Leagues' David Fincher Says He Shouldn't Have Directed 'The Game,' Dislikes Superhero Movies & Talks "Crazy" '20,000 Leagues' Matt Damon & Paul Greengrass Are Returning To The 'Bourne' Series Matt Damon & Paul Greengrass Are Returning To The 'Bourne' Series First Look: Angelina Jolie And Brad Pitt In 'By The Sea' First Look: Angelina Jolie And Brad Pitt In 'By The Sea' The Best, Worst And Most Disappointing Films Of The 2014 Toronto International Film Festival The Best, Worst And Most Disappointing Films Of The 2014 Toronto International Film Festival Recap: 'Boardwalk Empire' Season 5, Episode 2 ‘The Good Listener’ Recap: 'Boardwalk Empire' Season 5, Episode 2 ‘The Good Listener’ The Best Documentaries Of 2014 So Far The Best Documentaries Of 2014 So Far The 20 Best TV Shows Of The 2013/2014 Season The 20 Best TV Shows Of The 2013/2014 Season The Best Films Of 2014 So Far... The Best Films Of 2014 So Far... From Worst To Best: Ranking The Films Of Hayao Miyazaki From Worst To Best: Ranking The Films Of Hayao Miyazaki The 10 Best & Worst Movie Sex Scenes The 10 Best & Worst Movie Sex Scenes All The Songs In 'Pitch Perfect' Including La Roux, David Guetta, Azealia Banks, Nicki Minaj & More All The Songs In 'Pitch Perfect' Including La Roux, David Guetta, Azealia Banks, Nicki Minaj & More

Review: 'Blackfish' Is A Heartbreaking & Effectively Damning Indictment Of SeaWorld

The Playlist By Kimber Myers | The Playlist July 16, 2013 at 7:05PM

“Blackfish” will ruin your memories of childhood. Never again will you look back fondly on traveling to SeaWorld and watching the Shamu show, jealous of the kids in the splash zone. After watching the documentary you’ll more likely go down the black hole of the internet, reading the Outside Magazine feature that inspired the film and not stopping until you’ve done more research on killer whales than a fourth grader writing a science report. Of course your ire won’t be directed at the creatures in the pools that used to seem so giant at SeaWorld; instead, it will be targeted toward those running the parks and obscuring the truth from both the public and its employees.
17
"Blackfish"
Magnolia Pictures "Blackfish"

Blackfish” will ruin your memories of childhood. Never again will you look back fondly on traveling to SeaWorld and watching the Shamu show, jealous of the kids in the splash zone. After watching the documentary you’ll more likely go down the black hole of the internet, reading the Outside Magazine feature that inspired the film and not stopping until you’ve done more research on killer whales than a fourth grader writing a science report. Of course your ire won’t be directed at the creatures in the pools that used to seem so giant at SeaWorld; instead, it will be targeted toward those running the parks and obscuring the truth from both the public and its employees.

"Blackfish"

Director Gabriela Cowperthwaite’s “Blackfish” begins with a recording of the disturbing 911 call after the 2010 deadly attack by Tilikum. The majestic orca was the star at Sea World Orlando before he attacked and killed his trainer, Dawn Brancheau. From there, the film rewinds to the ‘70s, revealing how the mammals were brought to SeaWorld and other marine parks. In what is only the first of the documentary’s many brutal scenes, “Blackfish” revisits the capture of several young calves at Penn Cove as they’re separated from their families. One of the divers who participated, John Crowe, reveals that it wasn’t only the animals who were traumatized as he forced the babies away from their mothers. The dive still sticks with the grizzled man decades later, and it has left its mark on Tilikum as well.

Before going to SeaWorld, Tilikum was held at Canadian park Sealand Of The Pacific, where he first attacked and killed someone. From there, he was taken to Orlando’s SeaWorld, where his trainers were misled about the incident at Sealand. Several incidents happened in Orlando, culminating in the death of his trainer Dawn Brancheau in 2010. The truth behind the previous incidents was hidden from the trainers at SeaWorld but the park’s former employees are eager to share their thoughts, particularly given Brancheau’s esteem within the community and SeaWorld’s eagerness to blame her for her own death. They tell horrific stories of both the poor conditions the orcas were held in and the abuse heaped on Tilikum by the dominant females he was penned in with at the park. At 12,000 pounds, Tilikum outweighs the average killer whale by 4,000 pounds, but he is still bloodied by other orcas, adding to the stress and pain of captivity.

Blackfish

With a straightforward, compelling approach, “Blackfish” effectively pleads its case against SeaWorld and similar parks. It succeeds not just because of the gripping footage and troubling stories of the spectators and trainers close to the incidents, but also because it consults experts in the field who offer insights into killer whales’ biology and psychology. The film demonstrates that orca are complex creatures with tremendous capacity for emotions and connections. These bonds are shown in the deep connections and relationships with the trainers, as well as in the family units present in the wild. As detail after detail about their capture and captivity emerges, “Blackfish” establishes that the emotional pain animals like Tilikum experience in environments like SeaWorld are the primary reason for the park violence. While the film shows an orchestrated, patient attack on a seal, we’re told that no killer whale has ever harmed a human being in the wild.

There are few movies that can change the way you see the world in 83 minutes. If “Blackfish” is seen by enough people, it has the power to affect attendance at SeaWorld. It’s tough to imagine anyone still being able to enjoy the park after seeing Tilikum’s drooping dorsal fin, scars and the loss of human life. [B+]

This article is related to: Reviews, Review, Gabriela Cowperthwaite, Documentary


The Playlist

The obsessives' guide to contemporary cinema via film discussion, news, reviews, features, nostalgia, movie music, soundtracks, DVDs and more.


E-Mail Updates