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Judy Thorburn's Movie Reviews

Earth

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EARTH –   Celebrates The Natural Wonders Of The World

The release date for the family friendly feature film, Earth, the first to be produced under the title of DisneyNature films, was perfectly timed to open on the date designated as Earth Day, April 22. Whether you are environmentally conscious or not, the big screen documentary (the most expensive ever, at a cost of $40 million) from the same team who made the 22 part BBC documentary series Planet Earth, will have audiences looking at the natural wonders of our planet and hopefully coming away with an appreciation and understanding of the need to save our precious ecosystem.

Directors Alastair Fothergill and Mark Linfield are the amazing filmmakers who traveled around the world with their cameras documenting how the tilt of the planet and the changing seasons affects all living things from flora to creatures big and small, on land, in the sea, and even in the air and, as such, showcases the intertwined relationship between Earth’s environment and its inhabitants.

There isn’t anything new that fans of the Discover Channel or other wildlife programs haven’t seen before. However there is nothing like viewing the natural wonders of the world as larger than life on the big screen in a digital format. This beautifully filmed 90 minute documentary is nothing short of visually breathtaking, with the occasional implement of time lapsed photography to illustrate the changing of the seasons with its affect on the landscape and its blossoming foliage. Incredible cinematography stands out as the key and it holds the viewer’s attention amidst the fact that the film is a bit disjointed, moving from one season, location or wildlife focus to another and back again.

Featuring the rich voice of James Earl Jones as narrator who occasionally adds some humor to the otherwise dramatic tone, Earth centers on the never ending struggle of creatures to stay alive in the ever changing world. From the frozen region of the North Arctic to the scorching heat and dry plains of the Kalahari Desert, through the tropical rain forests and North American woodlands, to the Antarctic, the film focus’s on three mothers and their offspring, and their life or death quest for food and water.

First we are introduced to an arctic polar bear and her young cubs as they awake from months of hibernation beneath the snow while their father is away on a desperate hunt for food that eventually ends on a tragic note. On the other side of the world the camera singles out an elephant and child from the herd and follows them on their hard trek through the dry desert to the Okavango Delta in search of water. And, in the ocean the camera takes us along the 4,000 mile migration of a humpback whale and calf.  Another sequence captures a huge flock of Demoiselle cranes forced to confront the fierce, death defying winds as they fly high over the Himalayan Mountains on their migration from the cold climate of Mongolia to a warmer India.   Along the way these animals must deal with other weather conditions and environmental dangers such predators and the lack of food in which the urge to survive takes precedence.

Several other creatures get their moment to shine which adds a lighter and comical touch.  The most memorable scenes that are a joy to behold involve Mandarin duck chicks coming out of their safe nest in a tree and making their first attempt at flight before landing softly on the ground in a bed of leaves, as well as watching the quirky mating dance of the exotic Bird of Paradise.

Survival of the fittest comes into play as an unfortunate harsh reality in which we are witness to the timeless ritual of the hunter and the hunted.  Given that the film is G rated, there is no graphic violence and the lens of the camera cuts away before the images of the hungry kill and its aftermath become too disturbing.   It is spectacular the way the incredible cinematographers, (Richard Brooks Burton, Mike Holding and Andrew Shillabeer) capture the chase of hunter and its prey, transforming their speedy movements into a sort of slow motion ballet that is both beautiful and sad, knowing the reality of the outcome.

Earth offers something rare that you won’t see in most present day movies.  In this modern age of CGI effects, nothing can compare to the eye popping visuals, aka special effects, that only Mother Nature can provide with its astounding natural beauty, wonders and miracles surrounding the circle of life.

This effective documentary is for the entire family, especially nature and animal lovers and offers an underlying subtle message of responsibility to preserve our planet’s treasures, so much of which we take for granted. Whether we choose to accept it or not, one can’t deny the beauty in that message.