Earth – Review

Disney heeds the call of nature.


Director: Alastair Fothergill and Mark Linfield
Notable Cast: James Earl Jones (narrator)

Welcome to the jungle. I don’t mean the concrete jungles in big cities. I mean the lush, vibrant kind, brimming with all walks of life. For those that complain about being cloistered as a nine-to-fiver, fingers cramping from too much typing, don’t complain. You got it easy compared to a pair of humpback whales that travels thousands of miles in search for food for the summer.

That’s just one of the stories found in Earth, a documentary that is appropriately getting its release on Earth Day. We all know Walt Disney as a pioneer in the world of animation, but some forget his innovations with documentary film. Between 1948 and 1960, the Walt Disney Company produced True Life Adventures, a series of short two-reels and documentaries that were fun, educational travelogues of our natural world. Fifty years after the last adventure, the studio revisits tradition with a feature that is sure to delight children and adults not wanting to subjugate themselves to more tween entertainment.

For those who have seen the BBC and Discovery Channel series Planet Earth, well then you’ve seen all there is to see in this theatrical release. Earth is a truncated compilation of the wondrous series, where the filmmakers Alastair Fothergill and Mark Linfield take certain clips and script out a new story, as narrated by James Earl Jones.

This is sure to disappoint those who have already seen that award-winning series, but the chance to see a tracking shot down a waterfall, or watch as a camera zooms out to reveal a flock of birds flying across an entire movie theater screen, is a magnificent sight to behold. From the opening moments it was apparent that we weren’t in Kansas anymore. Storks try to fly over the Himalayas. Elephants march to the north of Africa in search of water. Ducklings flying to the ground, or as Jones declares, “falling with style.”  

Utilizing more than thirty photographers the documentary makes you wonder if they lucked into some of these shots, or if there’s some trickery involved. At the end, outtakes play over the credits, giving us a means of how the photographers went about capturing the amazing footage. Fabricated or not, you want to believe everything on the screen is real. Especially the story of the father polar bear looking for food so that he can provide for his newborn cubs. We sit there wide-eyed, not trying to overthink the situations.

Even if the footage is culled from the famed BBC series, at least concede the fact that seeing animals in the flesh (albeit in a big screen theater) is more enticing than their animated counterparts. Except for Scrat in Ice Age – who doesn’t love that guy? And parents will take comfort in knowing that this isn’t strictly entertainment; kids, in between fiddling with their movie snacks, will learn some interesting facts. For instance, the rainforests of South America aren’t the leaders when it comes to producing oxygen.

If the training montage in Rocky makes us want to work out, then the sights and sounds of Earth make us want to improve the quality of living. Even with all the crap going on in the news, planet Earth is still a beautiful place.   


Tags: ,