Eight Below is a 2006 American survival drama film based on Antarctica by Toshirô Ishidô, Koreyoshi Kurahara, Tatsuo Nogami and Susumu Saji. It was produced by Patrick Crowley and David Hoberman, directed by Frank Marshall with music by Mark Isham 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. The film received positive reviews from critics and it earned $120.4 million on a $40 million budget.
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Frank Marshall|
|Screenplay by||David DiGillio|
|Music by||Mark Isham|
|Edited by||Christopher Rouse|
|Distributed by||Buena Vista Pictures|
|Box office||$120.5 million|
In 1993, Jerry Shepard is a guide at an Antarctica research base under contract with the National Science Foundation. UCLA professor, Dr. Davis McClaren, arrives at the base. He presses Shepard to take him to Mount Melbourne to find a rare meteorite from Mercury. Because of the hazardous conditions of the ice, vehicles traveling to the mountain would likely be too heavy to stay on the surface. Shepard decides that the only way to get to Mount Melbourne is by dog sled.
Shepard and McClaren make it to Mount Melbourne, but are called back to base camp due to an approaching heavy storm. McClaren begs for more time, and Shepard gives him half a day, which is enough time to find a fragment of the meteorite. En route back to base, McClaren slips down an embankment, breaking his leg and falling into freezing water. Shepard uses the lead dog Maya to carry a rope to McClaren and pulls him out. The two battle hypothermia, frostbite and near whiteout conditions as the dogs lead them home. Once there, the entire human crew is immediately evacuated, while the dogs are left behind. Certain that their pilot will return within days for the dogs, Shepard tightens their collars to ensure they cannot get loose and run away. But because of the harsh weather conditions, no rescue can be attempted until the next spring - and by then the dogs will be dead.
Back at home, Shepard tries to secure a plane to return and save the dogs, but no one is willing to finance the risky expedition. Five months later, Shepard makes one last attempt to get back. McClaren realizes the magnitude of his ingratitude and uses the remaining balance of his grant money to finance a rescue mission. Shepard acknowledges that there is almost no chance that any of the dogs have survived this long, but he owes it to his team to go back for them.
After being left behind, the eight sled dogs – lead dog Maya, Old Jack, Shorty, Dewey, Truman, Shadow, Buck, and the young Max, wait in the freezing conditions for Shepard to return. After two weeks without eating, with their spirits dwindling, they sit on the line next to the base. Suddenly, a gull flies near, prompting the dogs into action, and they all begin to break free, one by one. Old Jack, too weak by now, remains attached, and Maya stays to try and free him while the others chase the flock of gulls that have landed nearby. Maya realizes Old Jack has given up, and she reluctantly leaves him behind when he shows no sign of wanting to leave the base. Maya joins up with the other dogs, and they all work together to attack the gulls and manage to kill a few, getting their first food in two weeks.
After nearly two months on their own, having kept their strength up and still traveling, the dogs rest on a slope one night under the northern lights. Fascinated by the display, they run about and play until Dewey slips and falls down an incline, lying injured at the bottom. The team rushes to his side and sleeps with him. In the morning they find he has died. Max, unwilling to leave him, stays behind momentarily while the others head on, and by the time Max heads in their direction, he has lost them.
Maya manages to lead the team to the Russian base, which is unsecured and full of food, while Max finds his way back to the American base, which is still locked and abandoned. Setting back out into the wilderness, Max soon finds and recognizes the embankment the dogs traveled through on their way back from Mount Melbourne, along with some equipment dropped during Doctor McClaren's accident. Exploring the area, Max finds the carcass of a dead Orca, but is driven off by a leopard seal nesting inside the body. Maya and the team are nearby, and they hear Max and rejoin him. Having nearly ruined their attempts to catch the gulls back when they had first left the base, Max redeems himself by luring the leopard seal away from the Orca so the dogs can eat. However, it doubles back and attacks Maya, who is badly injured when it claps its reptile-like maw onto her paw. In a rage, the other five dogs jump on the seal, tearing and slashing at its face and body. The seal, overwhelmed, quickly drags itself back through the ice into the water, swimming away, and the dogs turn back to the Orca and feast. After they have eaten their fill, the team, now reunited, continue traveling. They are starving, freezing and exhausted, and eventually the injured Maya collapses into the snow to rest. The dogs lie down beside their leader as the snow piles up around them. They have been on their own for nearly six months.
Shepard makes it back to base with the others and is dismayed to find the body of Old Jack, still attached to the chain, and no sign of the other dogs. He hears the sound of barking and sees Max, Shorty, Truman, Shadow and Buck come over the horizon. After a joyous reunion, Shepard attempts to load the dogs into the snowmobile, but Max runs off, with Shepard in hot pursuit. Max leads him to Maya, lying in the snow – weak, but alive. With six of his eight sled dogs in tow, Shepard and his crew head back to civilization, with the last scene showing a grave for the two fallen dogs, 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 Antarctica, of which Eight Below is a remake. 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 Showa Station.
The film was dedicated to the memory of Koreyoshi Kurahara, the director of Antarctica, who died four years before it was released.
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. 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.
On the review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes the film has a rating of 72%, based on 146 reviews. The site's critical consensus reads, "Featuring a stellar cast of marooned mutts, who deftly display emotion, tenderness, loyalty and resolve, Eight Below is a heartwarming and exhilarating adventure film." 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."
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.
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The film was released on separate format widescreen and full screen editions on DVD on June 20, 2006. It was also released on PlayStation Portable (an original widescreen format) on June 26, 2006. The film was released on high definition Blu-ray for an original widescreen presentation on September 19, 2006.
- French, Philip (April 23, 2006). "Eight Below". The Guardian. Retrieved December 12, 2014.
- Arnold, William (February 16, 2006). "'Eight Below' warms the heart despite faux paws". Seattle Post-Intelligencer. Retrieved December 12, 2014.
- 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.
- Eight Below at Rotten Tomatoes. Last accessed: February 04, 2012.
- 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 Box Office Mojo.