The One and Only Ivan succeeds, but barely

12 months ago Triangle 0

Written by: Isabelle Hendrich, guest writer

*Warning: this review contains spoilers

The One and Only Ivan, a Disney Plus original released on Aug. 21, is based on the true story of Ivan the artistic silverback gorilla who was kept in captivity for nearly 20 years. 

Once he is rescued from poachers, Ivan lives with Mack, an entertainer, until he is three years old. Mack then opens a circus in a mall in Tacoma, Washington featuring Ivan as the main show.

Ivan is played by Sam Rockwell and Mack by Bryan Cranston. Other notable casts include Angelina Jolie, Danny DeVito, and Hellen Mirren.

The One and Only Ivan is rated PG for “mild thematic elements.”

This heart-warming story is directed by Thea Sharrock and is produced by Angelina Jolie.

While the movie generates many tears and laughs from all animal-lovers, artists and everyone in between, it could have expanded on a few more themes. 

For instance, Ivan had a sister named Tag. They were separated by poachers when they were babies. The movie unfortunately does not incorporate Tag or any other family member of Ivan’s.

*Spoilers begin here.

The saddest part of The One and Only Ivan is when Mack says goodbye to Ivan.

Mack loved Ivan very much, raising him from infancy. Mack was like a father to him, despite his strictness in training the other animals. 

The other circus animals included a neurotic seal, a fire truck-riding rabbit, an exotic chicken, a fast-talking parrot, a baby elephant named Ruby and Stella the grown-up elephant. They can all talk to each other but humans can’t understand them. 

Ivan tries to escape after a promise he makes to Stella before she dies. He promises that he will free Ruby and all of the other animals. 

Mack is forced to shut down his circus after the public protests for his animals to be released.

Another aspect the movie could have emphasized is Stella’s and Ivan’s friendship. Ivan looks up to Stella because she has been performing much longer than he has been.

Despite it seeming impossible, Ivan should have tried to rescue Ruby and the other animals sooner. In the movie, his friend Bob the dog is the one to tell Ivan he should keep his promise.

Although Ruby and Ivan eventually go to live in a zoo because of the public’s protests, Ivan not trying to rescue himself and Ruby sooner make him a weaker character.

Ivan eventually realizes that he does not always have to pretend to be a scary gorilla to help his friends. He can just be himself. After he paints a jungle scene on a wall, a little girl, Julia, notices he wants to be free. She then helps all of the animals be released into a zoo by telling the news media. 

In the Bible, God gives humans stewardship of earth and of its creatures. Unfortunately, Mack abuses his stewardship and mistreats Ivan and the rest of the circus animals. While The One and Only Ivan does not condone circuses having animals, the directors imply that zoos are the better option. 

*Note: this article expresses the ideas and opinions of the author and is not a reflection of the views of the Triangle or Bryan College as a whole.

Isabelle Hendrich is a communications studies major and mission minor at Bryan College. Besides running, Isabelle also likes to read and create crafts. She is also a triplet whose siblings, Benjamin, and Savannah, also attend Bryan College.