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Thursday, September 19,2013

SeaWorld can suck it

'Blackfish' is a one-note wake-up call

By Ryan Syrek

Breaking news: You know those giant, majestic, ocean-dwelling creatures with the first name “killer?” Turns out if you lock them in tiny spaces, it kills them, and if you get in with them, they kill you. Nothing says “family fun” like aquatic murder and animal mistreatment, right, SeaWorld?

Blackfish is less a documentary and more a 83-minute hit job on the aforementioned tourist attraction. Writer/ director Gabriela Cowperthwaite and cowriter Eli B. Despres gather a murderer’s row of eye witnesses, mostly former trainers, to describe in explicit detail how explicitly messed up things are at SeaWorld, further besmirching Florida’s routinely besmirched reputation.

The film primarily focuses on one whale: Tilikum. Why focus on this one whale? Well, because he’s basically a serial killer whale, having caused the death of three separate trainers people on three separate occasions. You’d think that the acceptable limit for whale murder would be somewhere around zero, but SeaWorld guidelines are apparently a bit lax. The most well known victim was Dawn Brancheau, a widely respected trainer beloved by her coworkers. If you think the anti-SeaWorld message is a bit harsh, consider that after Dawn was killed, the corporation tried to say it was her fault for “wearing a ponytail.” Nevermind that Tilikum didn’t grab her by her ponytail and that the hairstyle is acceptable for trainers.

This mimics earlier deaths, where the blame was shifted onto the human in the water and not the giant sea creature that totally shouldn’t be there. Almost as bad as making it sound like their employees died due to their own negligence: SeaWorld worked to spread lies about killer whales to make themselves look better. They’d say they lived longer in captivity when they lived half as long or that “dorsal fin collapse” as is seen in almost every captive male orca is common when it happens in less than 1 percent in the wild.

In case you hadn’t picked up on it, there’s no overall narrative flow to Blackfish. The film also haphazardly skips in chronology, while spending far too little time examining the titular creature. While nobody can blame Cowperthwaite for not turning this into a National Geographic special, it would have been refreshing to at least see how the free-roaming creatures live. And then there’s the other problem: when creating a movie intended to destroy the reputation of a corporation, that corporation is not very prone to let you use their materials or images. Thus, as expected, there are a lot of holes in information and a ton of blurry, VHS-recorded footage.

It’s almost impossible to watch Blackfish and not get at least kind of pissed. Unless you’re someone who just really, truly hates all gentle living creatures in this world. If that’s the case, please stop reading this review and seek treatment. If the film were any longer, it may have fallen into the abyss of repetition, as chances are audiences will be ready to boycott SeaWorld after 15 minutes. Thankfully, the super specific focus is accompanied by a super tight running time, and the result is an effective destruction of a corporation that sure deserved it.

Correction: This review originally stated that Tilikum, the SeaWorld killer whale, was involved in the deaths of three trainers. Of those three people, only two were trainers; one was a man not employed by the park.

—This review first appeared in The Reader of Omaha, Neb.

Rating: Three out of four stars

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Actually, Tilikum killed 2 trainers and one SeaWorld patron who either snuck in after hours or hid while they were closing.





Love this "It’s almost impossible to watch Blackfish and not get at least kind of pissed. Unless you’re someone who just really, truly hates all gentle living creatures in this world. If that’s the case, please stop reading this review and seek treatment." I feel the same way. Can't wait for it to come out I haven't seen it yet. I completely agree with you SeaWorld can Suck it.




This article reads like it was written by a 9th grader.  Yikes...how does stuff like this get published?


I agree. Horribly written piece. Also, it makes a mockery of a very serious issue. People have died and Tilikum is a criminally abused animal. Also, the author could at least have command of the facts. Tilikum has not killed 3 trainers. Boulder Weekly, if you are interested in serious writers who provide quality content, let me know.


Hi Jim and Megan, Yowza! Sorry y'all didn't like the review! I grant you that I did have a typo on the trainer section. The first draft specified that trainers and a civilian were killed, and when I trimmed for word count I didn't change it to "people" like I should have. It doesn't really change anything about the content of the review, but it should read "three separate people on three separate occasions." My bad! As far as the tone goes, the hard part about writing reviews is that you simultaneously have to recap the movie, take a critical approach, and be entertaining to readers. My personal voice is one that strives for a bit more playfulness, but I certainly never meant a shred of disrespect, concluding with the line Gelly quoted above. As for feeling like it was "written by a 9th grader," let me say first: Ouch. Second, I was trying to take a different approach than the repeated somber expressions most reviewers have taken. The reality is, with so many avenues and outlets for film response these days, you have to try to be different. I can only assure you I am definitely not a 9th grader and that I am a VERY serious writer (see, I wrote this too-http://www.boulderweekly.com/article-11510-crisis-of-context.html). At any rate, I sincerely appreciate you guys taking the time to not only read but comment. Engaged readers mean the world, even if it sometimes stings a bit! I hope you keep reading!


I loved the review! Thank you for hammering this awful abusement park. SeaWorld is the last place any family who cares about animals should be buying a ticket. Your ticket, Your fault. It's that simple.



I really enjoyed the wreading this article. Sure maybe there was some minor details left out, but the overall point was made. People stress out to much over small things and forget the main point.Overall people need to share BlackFish. We saw the horrors of SeaWorld. Keep up the good work. this is the first ever post I have ever made because I get sick and tired of people complaining, when we should focus more on spreading the message of BlackFish like you did(the writer). Thank You




Do your research idiot, seaworld didint loose any customers this summer. Its a mockumentary full of incorrect information. Yea release the orca and see what happens when it kills in the wild.. 


Lose the nasty name-calling, please. The August 20 issue of Time magazine detailed how attendance has plummented at SeaWorld. http://business.time.com/2013/08/20/why-one-theme-park-company-swears-its-happy-to-be-attracting-fewer-visitors/