Beavers
Now playing at Pacific Science Center.

Picture yourself in a darkened theater. The seats below you, descending at a sharp angle, are filled with the silhouettes of families, who are tittering in anticipation. Straight ahead looms the ghostly glow of a 40-foot screen. A child with Pokémon painted on his face asks, "Where are the beeevers, Mommy?" Everyone is straining to catch their first glimpse of buck-toothed fur. Then the screen bursts to life, and projected across your entire plane of vision are two brontosaurus-sized beavers. What is that noise coming out of the speakers? It sounds eerily like a baby chewing food. Jesus, you think, beavers sound like toddlers eating corn on the cob. Then one of the beavers leans back and scratches its belly with a webbed foot, and you hear yourself joining the audience in a unanimous, sappy, "Awwwww." This isn't a dream. This is the IMAX® Beavers experience.

When I heard that Beavers had come to the Pacific Science Center, I rejoiced. Finally, I thought, a film that exposes the secret lives of these enchanting, sought-after creatures. In need of a copilot, I called my friend Tamara and we marched down into the shadow of the Space Needle, ready to feast our eyes on the flat-tailed varmints we knew so little about.

The beginning of the film was promising. We were introduced to a pair of adult beavers, who were wandering the Canadian Rockies in search of a home. The first thing that strikes you about IMAX is how gorgeous everything is. The beavers shuffled through stunning vistas beneath snow-capped mountains, until they discovered a stream running through a meadow. Tamara was still sniffling from the heart-wrenching Lion King preview we'd seen before the film, and gazing at the beavers, she exclaimed, "You can't help but love them!" She was right. They're fantastically cute. At IMAX size, this cuteness is overwhelming. The audience has little choice but to hang on and endure the awesome charm of these beasts.

As the beavers set to work damming the stream, the narrator gave us some beaver basics. Did you know that in a single year, a pair of beavers will gnaw through 400 trees? Over the next 20 minutes, we watched the beavers transform their creek into a lake. "At this rate, they'll drive themselves to beaver breakdowns," I whispered. Then the film cut to serene moonlit footage. As the beavers rendezvoused beneath a sea of stars, violins soared in the background. We were about to discover how beavers unwind after a hard day's work.

You'll find the top romance scenes of all time in films like Casablanca and Gone With the Wind--and I am appointing IMAX's Beavers to that list. By tiptoeing around the subject of sex, the filmmakers created a masterpiece of understated eroticism. The audience sat saucer-eyed as the beavers pressed their breasts to one another and rose onto their hind legs, waltzing through the shallows of the pond in a mysterious ritual. We've all seen ungainly footage of animals mounting one another on the Discovery Channel, and I applaud Beavers for their poetic approach. Before long, there appeared four little beavers, hitching rides on their parents' backs and threatening to drive the audience into a cuteness frenzy.

Now, I know how this sounds so far: The excitement, the romance... why not order your tickets NOW? Well, there is a dark side to Beavers. First, admission is $7 for adults, and the film is only 40 minutes long. Also, the film skimps on beaver facts. For instance, we learn that "some of the young beavers will journey into the wilderness in search of mates." But what about the young beavers who don't leave home? Who will they mate with? Isn't that incest? We were left to puzzle on our own.

Toward the end of Beavers, we watched intimate footage of the family inside their lodge, and realized that much of the film was staged. Until now, we had pictured camera operators in beaver costumes slowly gaining the trust of these undomesticated animals. But no wild beaver is going to let you rip a hole in their house and poke a lens inside. We were crestfallen, knowing our protagonists were being doubled by tame, imposter beavers on a sound stage.

As we filed out of the theater, Tamara and I found ourselves on the fence about IMAX's Beavers. We craved more detailed information. Do beavers lay eggs? Do they have protective blubber? These questions seemed crucial. Maybe the film's mission is to raise beaver awareness by making audiences fall in love with the creatures. Never again will I hear the term "beaver," in any context, without picturing these furry darlings. If you've got the cash, head down to the Pacific Science Center and give these critters a try. You may not learn much, but once their spell is cast, you'll be smitten.

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