Eight Below Is Still Heartwarming 16 Years Later

Paul Walker with dogs in Eight Below. © 2005 Buena Vista Pictures Distribution and Winking Productions GmbH & Co. KG. All Rights Reserved.

It’s been sixteen years since the theatrical release in 2006 but Eight Below is a testament to the challenges of survival and friendship.

After watching a number of disaster thrillers over MLK weekend in January, I was in the mood for a film about dogs. Upon noticing that I missed last year’s 15th anniversary, I figured it would be better late than never. Given the film’s themes of survival and friendship, I knew the adventure film would do the trick. Unfortunately, Paul Walker is no longer with us. Seeing as how it’s been 16 years, it’s sadly a good bet that the dogs have since passed away. They are our best friends and people will certainly do whatever it takes to keep them out of harm’s way.

With a major storm coming to Antarctica, the research crew has no choice but to evacuate before the Antarctic winter began. However, winter also means nobody is stepping foot onto the continent. Unfortunately, it means that the eight dogs are going to be left behind on their own.  You feel bad for Jerry Shepard (Paul Walker) because he’s grown an attachment to the dogs. What Shephard does not know is that these dogs have a will to survive. When there’s a will, there’s a way, right? Maya, Old Jack, Shorty, Dewey, Truman, Shadow, Buck, and Max hold off for two weeks. Seven break free but unfortunately, Old Jack passes away.

If  UCLA professor Dr. Davis McClaren (Bruce Greenwood) didn’t have a bad injury, it’s likely they would have brought the dogs. But six months later, Shephard, McClaren, cartographer Charlie Cooper (Jason Biggs), and pilot Katie (Moon Bloodgood) reunite to find the dogs. It turns out that McClaren has some funding available because his trip had been cut short. They know that there probably isn’t a chance but they have to try.

Eight Below mixes it up between the dogs and the bid for a rescue mission. But when we’re back with the dogs, there are some moments that have us on the edge. Max stays behind with a dying Dewey after the others go on their away. He heads back to their base before making it back out along the trail while the others make it to the unsecured Russian base. Later on, Max finds a dead orca but has some trouble with a leopard seal. Thankfully for Max, the others hear him. Unfortunately, Maya gets injured. By this point, the rescue mission is getting closer to finding them. In many ways, both Max and Jerry go on a similar journey.

In any other circumstances, a rescue mission would be impossible to fathom. Six months alone in Antarctica means there’s no way, right? It would be impossible for the dogs to survive! But as Eight Below shows us, never say never!

The film is based on a 1983 Japanese film, Antarctica, which itself was inspired by the 1958 Japanese Antarctic Research Expedition (Showa Station). David Diglio’s script moves to events up to 1993 because it was the final year that sled dog teams were used for Antarctic expeditions. That said, it’s certainly weird to see a not-so-period film in 2006 without cellphones but this is life in the early 1990s! In terms of casting, it is an American remake so they focus on an American cast. In typical Disney fashion, the film is made with families in mind.

The animals surviving notwithstanding, the film isn’t without some flaws. It should not be bright daylight in Antarctica. Instead, the skies should be dark while the weather should be well over a hundred degrees below zero. This doesn’t take away from being able to find some entertainment in watching the film. It isn’t a sci-fi film so you’d think that they would have pushed for accuracy in this department. Honestly, it’s something that I have no thought to when I first saw the film back in 2006. To each their own, I suppose.

DIRECTOR: Frank Marshall
CAST: Paul Walker, Bruce Greenwood, Moon Bloodgood, Wendy Crewson, Gerard Plunkett, August Schellenberg,  and Jason Biggs

Disney released Eight Below on February 17, 2006.

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Danielle Solzman

Danielle Solzman is native of Louisville, KY, and holds a BA in Public Relations from Northern Kentucky University and a MA in Media Communications from Webster University. She roots for her beloved Kentucky Wildcats, St. Louis Cardinals, Indianapolis Colts, and Boston Celtics. Living less than a mile away from Wrigley Field in Chicago, she is an active reader (sports/entertainment/history/biographies/select fiction) and involved with the Chicago improv scene. She also sees many movies and reviews them. She has previously written for Redbird Rants, Wildcat Blue Nation, and Hidden Remote/Flicksided. From April 2016 through May 2017, her film reviews can be found on Creators.