Written and Directed by Alastair Fothergrill and Mark Linfield
Narrated by James Earl Jones
I’m not sure how to do this. How does one heap praise on a film that is essentially comprised of previously used footage and reappropriated in the interest of making it more accessible for American family audiences? Furthermore, how does one criticize said film when its ultimate purpose, outside of cashing in on growing environmental concern as a viable marketing strategy, is to draw awareness to the fragility and magnificent beauty of our planet? The new distribution leg of the multinational conglomerate, Walt Disney, known as Disney Nature has all too conveniently chosen today, Earth Day, to unveil the first in what it hopes will be a new kind of franchise for a world gone green. Each year, Earth Day will now have to fulfill new duties as a tent pole release date for Disney Nature’s series of nature documentaries and their inaugural offering keeps it both simple and broad, beginning pretty much where you would have to, with EARTH.
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 more 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. Brining 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.
Editor’s note: To dispel their eco-capitalist image, Disney has pledged to plant a tree for every ticket sold to EARTH through its opening weekend so get out there and see it already. 500,000 advance tickets have been sold already.