Wednesday, April 22, 2009

This Island Earth

My favorite Elton John song is "Circle of Life", which I thought of often during this movie.

Today is Earth Day and to honor this annual eco friendly awareness we went out to see the new Disney film Earth. Intentionally released on Earth Day, each ticket sale for the first week goes to planting a new tree. I didn't know too much about this film before going to see it, my wife was very interested in Earth and the trees that are planted so we decided to go on opening day.

It's been a long time since I've seen a nature documentary on the silver screen and all I can say is WOW, what a difference. The images have a size and clarity to them that let the viewer become immersed in the settings. This film was clearly shot over a long period of time as seasons change and time lapse montages are employed regularly. The filming is done beautifully and with the amount of scope needed to do the planet justice. Visually, the only negative I can really say wasn't the film's fault but the movie theater, the print was scratchy and the first reel kept jittering up and down.

The movie takes us on a tour of wildlife up and down our big blue orb, the polar bears of the North Pole, the rainforests, the Elephants in Africa, the whales in the Ocean and the birds in the sky all get featured. Stunning vistas and crowded scenes of mass migrations across land, sea and air all impress. Close ups on the animals reveal a detail you can't see on a tv screen, even a HDTV screen. My personal favorite was a shot following melting glacial water flowing off a mountainside into a vast pit of mist.

In terms of story, it's all about the circle of life and the change of the seasons. Families and herds of animals, driven to migration by changes in the weather, face starvation and other predators for a shot at survival. Life and death figure greatly here. There are moments of humor mixed in though Earth keeps its eye firmly fixed on the big picture: Global warming combined with nature's already harsh conditions makes getting to the next day harder and harder. Solemnly narrated by James Earl Jones, Darth Vader lays out the situation with a nice mix of facts (1/3rd of the planet is desert!) compassion and occasional wry humor.

As a film, Earth does a good job of meeting and sometimes exceeding the expectations that come with this type of film. Like a grand encyclopedia, as James Earl Jones says at one point this brings to life a part of the world that many are disconnected from in urban life. He's right. And while the movie does fall short of amazement and can be slow in spots, it consistently entertains and fascinates. In addition, the more I watched it the more I saw how little differentiates us from other animals. The segment with the Elephants and Lions was both scary and impressive in the amount of intellect that goes into their interactions. In the end the message is clear: Earth is a beautiful place for everyone and it's up to the viewer to keep it that way.

If you watch this movie, I recommend sticking around for the ending credits which show funny bits from the filming of Earth.


Jeannie said...

I really like your review and think that you captured the movie very accurately. I hope everyone goes to see it (especially this week since a tree will be planted for each ticket sold).

Some Kinda Wonderful said...

Your review almost made me want to chance my local movie theater again. Sticky carpets and all. I remember what a great job Disney always did on those documentaries that we used to watch in elementary school. Love Jiminy Cricket.

I generally have difficulty watching the gruesome parts like when the croc grabs the antelope or the lion gets the zebra. I KNOW that they have to eat too and there is nothing sinister or evil in them, they are just trying to survive, but still... it's hard to watch. Or when a young animal starves to death or drowns crossing a river. Those things are hard to watch, even tho I love those kinds of wildlife shows.

" the more I watched it the more I saw how little differentiates us from other animals."That is so true, Mr. Mike, so true. And so few people want to admit it.

Mr. Mike said...

Hi Bunny! I enjoyed going to the movies together and had a great time.

Hi SKW! The good news about Earth is that it's G rated. For the scenes where one animal defeats another, it would play up to the moment the mouth would go on the neck and then cut to the next scene. So there was minimal blood. But yes, there is some sad death alluded to in the movie.

Before the movie came on there was an advertisement for a childrens movie that said we share 98% of the same dna as rodents. My wife said that was true, which just goes to show how much we have in common with the animal kingdom.