Two Brothers (7/10)

Copyright © 2004 by Tony Medley

Iíve only recently had to sit through Before Sunset and Director Richard Linkletterís inability to get actor Ethan Hawke to create chemistry with an attractive woman. In Two Brothers Director Jean-Jacques Annaud gets two male tigers to exhibit strong chemistry. The only conclusion I can draw from this is that the tigers have more talent than Hawke.

In Two Brothers two tiger cub brothers are separated shortly after birth, but not before they get to know one another. One, Kumal, is assertive and aggressive; the other, Sangha, is mild and timid.

After they are separated, the Normandin family takes Kumal, the mild one, home after their son, Raoul (Freddie Highmore) finds him hiding in a burrow. The Normandins ship Sangha off to a private menagerie where he is trained to be a fighting killer.

Meanwhile, Kumal is adopted by Aidan McRory (Guy Pearce), a hunter who is out to find, take, and sell precious statues from the wilds of Cambodia. But Kumal is taken away from McRory to wind up in the Circus Zerbino as the heir apparent to an old performing tiger that is on his last legs.

As events unfold, Kumal and Sangha finally meet again in a fight-to-the-death gladiatorial contest.

The film treats animals as if they are human. We are viewing the world through their eyes. This allows Annaud to let the audience impose its reasoning and sensibility into the animalsí experience, which results in a Bambi-like aura. This is my main criticism of the film. Tigers are predatory, dangerous animals. This film presents them so that, in a childís eye, they are nothing more than large cats. It encourages children to take them for something they are not. As such, I donít think it is a film that is appropriate for its intended audience, which is children.

An appropriate comparison would be with The Edge (1997). Nobody who saw that film will ever think of a bear as something cuddly and loveable like Smokey The Bear. The Kodiak bear in The Edge was a huge, life-threatening wild animal, something that would evoke respect in anybody, something that would keep anybody from approaching it for any reason whatever. To the contrary, Two Brothers presents tigers as large, cuddly, loveable pets. As such, it will inspire love and affection in young children, instead of the healthy respect that should be their due.

One purpose of this film is apparently to help the Worldwide Wildlife Fund alert the audience to the decimation of the tiger population. A century ago there were 100,000 wild tigers across Asia. Itís estimated that that has been reduced to 5,000-7,000 wild tigers today, clearly a disaster.

This is a beautifully photographed film (Jean-Marie Dreujou). The Cambodian locations are magnificent. The scenery alone is worth the price of admission. While it is an entertaining, enjoyable film, if I took children to see it I would  emphasize that tigers are dangerous wild animals and what they will be seeing on the screen is fantasy, little more than a cartoon. If a child attempted to do with a tiger what Raoul does at the end of the film, the odds are that it would result in a horrible tragedy.

  June 22, 2004

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