Well, last night we went to see "Earth", the 99-minute pseudo compilation via Disney of an epic BBC work called Planet Earth from 2006. This one focuses on three families: Polar bears, elephants and humpback whales.
(The next excerpt will be out in 2010 - called "Oceans.")
I have mixed feelings, but the children sure loved it.
We own the progenitor, the multi-episode set, narrated by David Attenborough (they had to one-up that by putting James Earl Jones in this one; and Patrick Stewart narrates the same shorter film in the UK and Europe), so it wasn't a surprise, exactly, although the creators say 40% of this is formerly unseen footage. And though we have the flat-screen/HD stuff at home, nothing - Nothin! - beats the big screen.
But they sure want you to root for the traditional family! Calling the polar bear adults "Mom" and "Dad" was a bit much, I thought, considering they're never in a scene together. In fact, they might have been many miles apart. And acting as though the lone male lion in a pride ready to prey on drought-stricken elephants called his bitches to the hunt was another odd thing.
The girls felt sorry - manifested tragically! - for any loss or potential loss.
For example, the young deer (gazelle) that the Cheetah chased down and then embraced, they had tears in their eyes, but we were mesmerized by the slow motion camera that caught the action, backed by appropriately dramatic music. We literally could not breath for two minutes.
When the "father" polar bear is trying to get a meal, after having been adrift in icemelt seas for days, by weasling into a sea lion pack, they first are concerned for the baby sea lions. But then, when the male bear has failed, they are worried and grief-stricken at his laying down on the ice, apparently to simply die, on the edge of his buffet of tusked counterparts - both prey and enemy in this scenario. [And, they asked me that loaded question, more than once, Why didn't the people just filming this just feed/water/help them?]
It made it confusing. I mean, who are you supposed to root for? The same thing happened with a couple of wolves, trying to separate out a young caribou from the pack. We Love wolves, and think they are unfairly maligned. But doggone it, the baby caribou is so darn Cute!
The humbacks are as friendly and mystical as always. The penguins as goofily competent as ever. The elephants are treated with respect and reverance.
There's some fantastic footage of mating birds of paradise. Truly exceptional stuff - especially they way they set it up - he cleans house, preens, all day... and then the broad doesn't come. Or if she does, she leaves!
Learned a little about the aurora australis, too - like of its existence!
By far, the most compelling thing to me, aside what I learned of the forests of our northwestern hemisphere (the oxygen they alone provide our earth), were the aerial shots - the migration of literally thousands of caribou "way" up north, or hundreds of crane - migrating over the highest peaks in the world, the Himalayas; the immense waterfalls of the Kalahari, shot as though for a 3-D experience (I warn you - vertigo!). The time-lapse photography that shows winter/spring/summer in the icy north, or an entire season in a rain forest.
The most spectacular shot-get would have to be the Great White Shark, leaping into the air, rolling, while in his maw sits a doomed seal. It's unbelievable footage. I know they stayed out in the veldt for weeks to get the lions accustomed to them before they could get their great lion "kill shot". But how'd they get this shark? They don't even have a pic I can download of this, just one of when the shark's nearly resting in the water with the seal on board. But it is awesome, and oh so revealing: the girls feel sorry for the predator polar bear, but hate the predator shark. I had to point this out to them, of course.
All in all, it was a good experience. I got to have fun leaning over to the Elder, whispering, "That's what Governor Palin wants to shoot out of helicopters," as we watched a wolf couple, obviously filmed from a helicopter, pick their way briskly through the tundra. It was my pleasure to illustrate the dichotomy of loving animals, and yet supporting their kill or be killed lifestyle, when necessary.
It was softer-spoke than its BBC edition, but held true to the ethos:
This is our planet. She is dying. We must save her.