Earth: If You Thought Planet Earth Was Great on TV…

… wait til you see it on a big screen. I wish I could have seen it on IMAX. When watching this astonishing documentary, I couldn’t help but feel like the films that will inevitably be nominated for Best Visual Effects Oscars will pale in comparison to the flocks of birds which literally fill the screen, or the Aurora Australis dancing before your eyes. They are the types of images that make you pinch yourself as a reminder that they are not CGI– a caribou march is as impressive as the Orc army from Lord of the Rings, and a great white shark jumping out of the ocean is as awe-inspiring as the dinosaurs in Jurassic Park. The entire movie is filled with such extraordinary images, camera angles, and tracking shots, that one can only wonder: how in the world did they capture such miraculous footage?

With James Earl Jones reading an irony-free narration, the film avoids politics, instead merely reassuring us that our planet is worth taking care of. We see polar bears attempting to find food after hibernation in the North Pole. A humpback whale and her offspring attempt an oceanwide migration. Ducks teach their ducklings how to fly by having them simply jump from incredible heights. Caribou and elephants attempt to find water while protecting their young from feline predators. The animal “plotlines” aren’t strict– the film jumps from scene to beautiful scene, yet you still find yourself sucked in when you see a baby elephant lost in a duststorm. My most emotional moment was watching a young caribou racing away from a cheetah for an incredible amount of time and holding its own– as long as it doesn’t fall, it can survive… but will it? In the midst of all this, the directors show footage of some unbelievable nature shots, some aided by time lapse photography, capturing a single location as it changes through the seasons. They achieve this effect while the camera remains constantly and fluidly moving. Every element of the visuals in this film are top drawer.

Some of this footage is rather strange and hilarious, such as a peculiar bird’s mating dance (the photo below is of said bird). It is unbelievable to me that they were able to get all of this footage for the Planet Earth series, now trimmed down into this film. There is some short documentary footage of the making of Planet Earth that rolls during the credits, and the danger these folks put themselves into in order to get the perfect shot for this unique vision is either quite admirable or quite foolish. Either way, I’m glad they did it. I fully intend to purchase Planet Earth on Blu-Ray and re-watch the entire thing in awe, wishing I had a bigger screen, until Disneynature and BBC puts Oceans into theaters on Earth Day 2010.

Note: Disney is allegedly planting a tree for every ticket sold this opening weekend. So if you get the chance to see it tomorrow, do so.

~ by russellhainline on April 26, 2009.

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