Remember those horrendously monotonous two hours of your life entitled the March of the Penguins? Where extreme boredom was interchanged with a few scenes of cuteness? Well, the good news is Disney’s Earth is not as boring; the bad news is it is just as unoriginal.
In the past few years documentaries have been able to become successful business ventures, some of them even blockbusters. Unfortunately these documentaries are usually not the smartest most insightful of this otherwise highbrow genre. Disney’s Earth falls somewhere within this category. In fact Disney was one of the first to venture into the making of documentaries. We learn this in the opening of Earth when Walt Disney himself tells the story behind Disney’s Real Life Stories, a set of documentary shorts that Disney produced until the 1960s. Unfortunately for us Disney has lost some practice since its last production of the Real Life Stories.
Earth is not an original production. In fact its footage is a collection of previous documentaries edited together into a feature length film. If you are a fan of nature documentaries you will even recognize some of the footage; I myself had a brief moment of déjà vu in the scene with the lions sharing a watering hole with the elephants. So I guess this narrows down the technical aspects of the film to how well it is put together. In Earth this is particularly important since its ambition is to encompass all of the Earth’s ecosystems under two hours. It achieves this by using the seasons as a narrative device. The film begins in the Artic during spring then move down through Africa until it reaches Antarctica during its winter, when it is summer in the north, and then it traces its steps back up until it is winter in the Artic. Through out this we follow a family of polar bears, a heard of elephants, some humpback whales and everything else we meet along the way.
Earth’s ambition in covering all the planet’s ecosystems is both its strongest point and its weakest point. It works because it keeps the film from getting too monotonous but it fails in giving the film cohesiveness.
Finally documentaries are supposed to make the audience care about something real. In the case of Earth it wants us to care about the Earth or rather nature in particular, but dozens of documentaries make the exact same points every year. For everyone who has seen a nature documentary Earth will feel as a “been there, done that” and for those who have seen one in Imax it is more of a “seen better”. I suppose the film’s target audiences are the little ones, who will enjoy seeing a nature documentary like this for the first time on the big screen. If this is the case it is likely to be very enjoyable.
Oh the bloopers during the credits are highly enjoyable and I recommend staying and watching.