Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Frank Marshall|
|Produced by||Patrick Crowley
|Screenplay by||David DiGillio|
|Based on||Nankyoku Monogatari:
|Music by||Mark Isham|
|Editing by||Christopher Rouse|
|Studio||Walt Disney Pictures
|Distributed by||Buena Vista Pictures|
|Release dates||February 17, 2006|
|Running time||120 minutes|
Eight Below is a 2006 American adventure drama film directed by Frank Marshall and written by David DiGilio. It stars Paul Walker, Bruce Greenwood, Moon Bloodgood, and Jason Biggs. It was released theatrically on February 17, 2006, by Walt Disney Pictures in the United States. The film is set in Antarctica, but was filmed in Svalbard, Norway, Greenland, and British Columbia, Canada.
In 1993, Jerry Shepard (Walker) is a guide at an Antarctica research base under contract with the National Science Foundation. UCLA professor, Dr. Davis McClaren (Greenwood), arrives at the base and along with Shepard's boss, Dr. Andy Harrison (Gerard Plunkett), presses Shepard to take McClaren to Mount Melbourne to attempt to find a rare meteorite from the planet Mercury. Shepard does so, ignoring his own intuition, which tells him it is too late in the season (January) to complete such a treacherous route. Worried about the snowmobiles breaking through the thinning ice or falling into a crevasse, Shepard tells Harrison and McClaren that the only way to get to Mount Melbourne is by dog sled.
Shepard and McClaren make it to Mount Melbourne, but immediately are called back to base camp due to an approaching heavy storm. McClaren begs for more time, and Shepard gives him half a day. McClaren finds what he was looking for and the two head back to the sled.
Shepard pauses to patch up one of the dogs (Old Jack) whose paw is bleeding. McClaren, while walking around to get a better radio connection with base, slides down an embankment when a soft ledge gives way. His landing at the bottom cracks the thin ice and McClaren ends up breaking through. Shepard is able to get his lead dog Maya to take a rope to McClaren and the dog team pulls him from the water.
Now, as they battle hypothermia, frostbite, and near whiteout conditions, Shepard and McClaren have to rely on the dogs' stamina and keen sense of direction to get them back to base. The injured people are immediately evacuated, along with all other personnel, due to the storm, which is expected to intensify. With too much weight in the plane to carry both people and dogs, the human team medically evacuates Shepard and McClaren with a plan to return later for the dogs. The dogs are temporarily left behind, but the storm is worse than expected. Because of the harsh weather conditions and a shortage of supplies at the McMurdo Station, it soon becomes apparent that no rescue will be attempted until the next spring.
Back at home, Shepard is guilt-ridden about leaving his dogs and stops working as an Antarctic-conditions guide. Five months later, and after a heart-to-heart session with an older, veteran guide, Shepard decides to throw his all into rescuing the dogs. Before leaving for the trip, Shepard patches things up with McClaren and shares his intention to rescue the dogs. McClaren learns Shepard does not have enough money to pay for the trip but tells him that he cannot help him. Soon afterwards, McClaren sees a drawing of the dog team made by his young son, with the title: "My Hero is... THE DOGS WHO SAVED MY DADDY." McClaren realizes the magnitude of his ingratitude and uses the remaining balance of his grant money to finance a rescue mission.
The Dogs' Story
Four days after the dogs were left at base camp, they eventually break free of their chains, except for Old Jack. Old Jack, who's too old to go with the others on their journey, dies at the base camp, despite Maya's encouragement to break free. The dogs now begin hunting seals, sea gulls, and penguins in order to keep from starving. However, one night while looking at the southern lights, one of the dogs, Dewey, falls off a steep slope and is fatally injured. The dogs show their affection for their teammate, but after Dewey succumbs to his injuries and dies, the dogs eventually have to move on. The youngest dog, Max, stays with Dewey a little longer and is separated from the rest.
Max finds his way back to where McClaren fell into the ice earlier and spots a dead Orca. He eats from it until he is attacked by a nearby leopard seal that fiercely guards its meal. The other dogs also find their way to the dead Orca and Max gets the leopard seal's attention so the rest can eat. But the leopard seal quickly sees what's happening, bites Maya on the leg and nearly kills her. Max and the other dogs fiercely chase him off. Maya manages to survive, but her leg is seriously injured.
The rest of the pack continue to hunt for food. Maya refuses food brought for her, and gives pack leadership to Max, who has shown bravery, leadership, and compassion.
The dogs manage to find their way close to the base camp, where Shepard and his rescue team are arriving. Shepard and the five dogs have a happy reunion. When Shepard gets ready to go in the car to leave, Max refuses to go. Max leads Jerry to the injured Maya, and he is able to rescue her as well. The team then leaves the base to return home with the six dogs. The final scene shows a grave for Old Jack and Dewey.
- Paul Walker as Jerry Shepard
- Bruce Greenwood as Dr. Davis McClaren
- Moon Bloodgood as Katie
- Jason Biggs as Charlie Cooper
- Gerard Plunkett as Dr. Andy Harrison
- August Schellenberg as Mindo
- Wendy Crewson as Eve McClaren
- Belinda Metz as Rosemary Paris
- Connor Christopher Levins as Eric McClaren
- Duncan Fraser as Captain Lovett
- Dan Ziskie as Navy Commander
- Michael David Simms as Armin Butler
- Daniel Bacon as Bureaucrat #2
- Laara Sadiq as Bureaucrat #3
- Malcolm Stewart as Charles Buffett
The 1958 ill-fated Japanese expedition to Antarctica inspired the 1983 hit film Nankyoku Monogatari. Eight Below adapts the events of the 1958 incident, moved forward to 1993. In the 1958 event, fifteen Sakhalin Husky sled dogs were abandoned when the expedition team was unable to return to the base. When the team returned a year later, two dogs were still alive. Another seven were still chained up and dead, five were unaccounted for, and one died just outside of Showa Station.
In Eight Below there are two Alaskan Malamutes (Buck and Shadow) and six Siberian Huskies (Max, Maya, Truman, Dewey, Shorty, and Old Jack). Each actor-dog had help from other dogs that performed stunts and pulled sleds. In all, over 30 dogs were used to portray the film's eight canine characters. Max, Maya, Dewey, and Buck (Old Jack's stunt double) were played by dogs seen in Disney's Snow Dogs. In real life the Alaskan Malamute called Shadow and the Siberian Huskies called Maya and Shorty belong to the actress Nathalie Efron (Annie Shepard), who contributed to the movie and the training of her dogs. The animal filming was supervised by the American Humane Association, and the film carries the standard "No animals were harmed..." disclaimer, despite an on-set incident in which a trainer used significant force to break up an animal fight.
The film received generally positive reviews from critics. Roger Ebert from Chicago Sun-Times gave the film 3 out of 4 stars, and said "Eight Below succeeds as an effective story." BBC liked the movie as well, but did not like its long length (2 hours). Reel.com liked it, saying "the movie succeeds at drawing you into their incredible adventure". However, the San Francisco Chronicle disliked the film, saying: "The movie is overly long and much too intense for small children, yet it's filled with dialogue and plot turns that are too juvenile to thrill adult audiences." William Arnold of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer reacted favorably ("the dog actors will melt your heart"), but pointed out, as did other reviewers, that "Antarctica buffs" will be critical of errors, such as portraying midwinter events occurring in "balmy, blazing daylight at a time Antarctica is locked in round-the-clock darkness and temperatures of 140 degrees below."
The review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes reported that 72% of critics gave the film a positive review, based on 146 reviews." The site's consensus says, "Featuring a stellar cast of marooned mutts, who deftly display emotion, tenderness, loyalty and resolve, Eight Below is a heartwarming and exhilarating adventure film."
According to Box Office Mojo, the film opened at #1 on February 17, 2006, with a total weekend gross of $20,188,176 in 3,066 theaters, averaging to about $6,584 per theater. The film closed on June 1, 2006 with a total worldwide gross of $120,453,565 ($81,612,565 domestic and $38,841,000 overseas).
- Satellite Awards: Satellite Award, Best Youth DVD, 2006.
- Rechtshaffen, Michael (2006-02-15). "Eight Below". The Hollywood Reporter. Archived from the original on 2007-08-07. Retrieved 2008-01-01.
- "A True 'Survivor' Story, Dog Version". The Washington Post. 2006-02-16. pp. C12. Retrieved 2008-01-11.
- "Animals were Harmed". The Hollywood Reporter. 2013-11-25. pp. C12. Retrieved 2013-11-28.
- Ebert, Roger (2006-02-17). "Eight Below". rogerebert.com. Retrieved 2007-12-29.
- Smith, Neil (2006-04-16). "Eight Below". BBC. Retrieved 2007-12-29.
- Knight, Tim. "Eight Below". Reel.com. Archived from the original on 2007-12-16. Retrieved 2007-12-29.
- Hartlaub, Peter (2006-02-17). "Man's 8 best friends get the cold shoulder". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved 2007-12-29.
- Arnold, William (2006-02-17). "'Eight Below' warms the heart despite faux paws". seattlepi.com. Retrieved 2008-01-12.
- Eight Below at Rotten Tomatoes. Last accessed: February 04, 2012.
- Eight Below at Box Office Mojo.