Years ago, the BBC embarked on a project so immense in size, one could describe it as planetary. Highly skilled camera crews spanned the globe, from pole to pole, capturing penguins, polar bears and scenic shots of desserts, mountains and jungles in between. The project’s purpose was to unobtrusively document the wonders of the planet on a scale that had never been accomplished before. In 2006, the series, “Planet Earth”, debuted to wild success and was repurposed for American audiences shortly thereafter. Disney has now acquired the rights to this breathtaking footage and all the intense drama and hilarious quirkiness that goes along with it. The premiere episode of the series was a general breakdown of what the subsequent episodes would focus on more specifically and “Earth” is recut to follow that same structure, implementing some new footage to highlight three specific stories amidst the global tour. It doesn’t do this as well as the series did, losing its direction somewhere in the lofty dessert but thankfully it never loses its gripping beauty. By the way, James Earl Jones, the voice of Darth Vader and CNN, is your official tour guide. The results cannot help but be as breathtaking as they were to begin with.
They say the world is a stage but being the narcissistic egomaniacs that we are as humans, we assume this applies solely to are own pointless dramas and experiences that consume us on a daily basis. “Earth” is here to remind us that we are not alone. Contrary to what we may believe, even as I sit on this bus and toil over this review, the cycle of life is happening on such a massive level that it essentially renders our supposedly important days somewhat meaningless. I know that it is hard for some people to accept this but I meant “meaningless” in the more freeing sense. How can agonizing over who was voted off last night’s talent show du jour hold any resonance whatsoever when you remember that right now, ecosystems are breaking down and rebuilding themselves across the globe, all the while playing home to necessary hunts, painstaking migrations and miraculous stories of survival and spirit? In that regard, “Earth” is a spiritual experience that will touch audiences of all ages alike. The real question though is whether it will inspire.
“Earth” also serves as another, most timely reminder that the planet is unique and not to be taken for granted. Aside from tailoring the film to appeal to families by focusing much of its attention on animal parents and the rearing of their kin, “Earth” also points out how some of these animals have it harder than they did in the past thanks to “the warming of the planet”, clearly mindful of the controversy mentioning global warming conjures. That said, while I still struggle with handing over praise for the acquisition of previously acclaimed footage and while I may still harbour some likely unnecessary resistance towards Disney’s true intentions for going green at a time when it is fashionable to do so, I must look sooner to the greater effect this might have on tomorrow. Bringing families to “Earth” means more chance for a future generation to lead the way back to the level of respect this planet rightfully deserves. Don’t believe me? Then you haven’t seen “Earth”.
Review by Joseph Bélanger