Film Review: Flight of The Butterflies

By Glenn Phillips

Monarchs in the Sierra Madre.Monarchs in the Sierra Madre.


Flight of the Butterflies is a remarkable film. Even without the awe-inspiring footage presented in IMAX format, the film would be worth watching for its in-depth and vivid portrayal of monarch butterflies and their extraordinary migrations. This film uses a dramatization of Fred Urquhart’s efforts to understand the migratory behavior of monarch butterflies as a frame for telling the life story of one monarch, hatched among the wildflowers of Texas, and her offspring. Along the way, you’ll learn about one of the most amazing citizen science projects ever conducted--and witness the development of a monarch from egg to caterpillar to chrysalis to adult through advanced MRI and micro CT scans. It is nothing less than magical.

Simon de Granville, 3D Stereographer, observes the monarch butterflies surrounding the crew.Simon de Granville, 3D Stereographer, observes the monarch butterflies surrounding the crew.No need for a spoiler alert, as we all know that Dr. Urquhart eventually discovered that the remote Sierra Madre mountains of Michoacán, Mexico serve as the principal wintering refuge for eastern monarchs. The details of how Dr. Urquhart finally discovered the proof seems like a fictional, Hollywood ending, but the filmmakers tell us that Catalina Aguado, the last surviving member of the discovery team, was present during the filming to ensure that it was portrayed accurately.

It is a shame that none of the local venues (Liberty Science Center and American Museum of Natural History) are showing the film in 3D. The added sense of immersion from the 3D version, almost perfectly captures what it feels like to be physically present in a monarch hibernation colony, without any risk of disturbance to these extraordinary flyers.

Crew in action filming monarchs in a field of bluebonnets in Texas.Crew in action filming monarchs in a field of bluebonnets in Texas.I left the theater amazed, with a newfound sense of respect for these extraordinary creatures, and grateful that a portion of the movies proceeds will support monarch butterfly conservation so that my children and grandchildren can continue to enjoy the flight of these butterflies. -GP

 

 

 

 

 

 

All images courtesy of Flight of the Butterflies.

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