Sunday, April 26, 2009

My Humble Earth Review

After all the hype and all of you putting up with me talking incessantly about this movie, I finally found the time to go see the Disneynature film Earth yesterday. My Earth Day had been previously booked with drumming performances and tickets to see John Waters speak at Sweetbriar College (Hence the photo from a truly fabulous night that I would not trade for anything). Initially, I told myself it would be better to wait until the crowds died down at the movie theater anyway. Then, I was handed the amazing opportunity to interview the movie's two directors, as anyone who has ever met me now knows (the interview reprise is in the last post). Plus, I was glued to the television for the entire series Planet Earth when it played on the Discovery Channel, and I loved every moment of it. Since the series ended, I have watched or read every scrap I could find on the making of it. Needless to say, I hated waiting so long to see this film, and I was really excited about finally getting to the theater last night. Did it live up to the hype? I am happy to report that it did.

Although some of the footage was seen in the television series, much of it was not. Some of the most famous footage of the series, like the Great White Shark attack, is shown again but also supplamented with new angles and additional footage. Even so, seeing it on television cannot compare to a big screen. Fothergill was not exaggerating when he said nature documentaries have needed the benefit of a theater setting. I found the big screen coming really close to the feeling I get when seeing natural phenomena live. I really felt some of the thrill of standing in the face of nature's awesome power. After many adventures into the wild to view things like the the monarch sanctuaries, where the world is literally blanketed in butterflies, or a volcano spewing it's lava into the ocean, or some of the worlds most spectacular waterfalls, having hiked out to see these spectacles live, I was really stoked to find myself getting that same heart pounding, thunder-struck experience from watching filmed footage on a movie screen.

Even better, some of the spectacles shown in Earth are filmed in places many of us will never be able to travel, nor would we even if we could, so I feel like the makers of this film have offered a great gift. In addition, they offer the idea that even though the planet is in great peril, there are still plenty of wonders out there to protect and save. All is not lost. Some might call it conservation light, but I have to agree with Fothergill when he said there have been enough fear driven, negative documentaries. The positive spin of Earth is refreshing. It makes it's point about earth's troubles, sure, but it also leaves the viewer feeling hopeful. Upon leaving the theater, I felt refreshed and ready to continue fighting to save what's left of our planet rather than feeling frustrated and angry and ready to chuck it in.

My only complaint is the sometimes anthropomorphic dialogue given by the narrator. For the most part it is okay, but in places the sap begins to rise. What do I expect? After all, this is Disney. Perhaps they could have laid off some of that cheesy stuff, but the kids probably love it. James Earl Jones delivers the narration beautifully, and the cheese factor is kept to a minimum, so it was not enough to turn me off entirely. I hate nothing more than a so-called "documentary" with a bunch of lovey dovey cooing and cawing. It's almost as bad as what Fothergill calls "crocodile strangling films," all teeth and blood and guts. For the most part, Earth stays between these two extremes, only slipping to the sappy side in a few places and never once straying too far towards the blood and guts.

Without giving too much of the film away, I thought some of the best scenes were the time lapse photography sequences where the changing seasons are shown over entire areas in a matter of minutes. It is truly breath taking. I highly recommend taking the time to see this film on the big screen. You will follow three amazing animal migrations, a polar bear and her cubs as they hike from den to sea, two humpback whales on their swim from the tropics to the South Pole, and an Elephant family as they migrate across a desert in search of water. In between, you will witness many amazing animals and natural wonders from around the globe. Take the whole family, and enjoy nature documentary film-making at it's finest. Make sure you stay through the credits to see some of the filming process and learn about the unexpected fun of working around wild animals. You never know what a hungry polar bear might do next.

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