Sunday, May 31, 2009

Earth (movie review)

Water Tower
Disneynature launched its new brand around this nature film and treats it as a flagship. I saw it as it was meant to be seen, with children present.

The theme is family teams aboard a swiftly tilting planet, lots of single moms especially, struggling to make ends meet, dad off taking stupid risks somewhere, ends up in walrus hell (in the one case).

Sometimes I chose to disbelieve the narrator, James Earl Jones, who really sounds like he knows what he's talking about, has the music on his side.

Most of the funny parts I agreed with, but when he made it seem this huge ordeal, to trek thousands of miles or whatever, I'm thinking what else would one do with a gorgeous bod like that, if not take it for a spin, a real workout.

Nature doesn't hatch these gorgeous specimens just to have them sit idle. She really goes for the gusto, tests herself mightily.

Mom and baby whale seem to have the best life. It's a long way (well duh) and mom is "ravenous" but when they flap their arms in the storm like that, I don't think it's that scary, not an economic crisis. They're just goofing off, enjoying the stormy weather. Maybe they're just waving at the silly helicopter.

And if you're really equipped to fly right over the Himalayas like that, then hey, why the hell not? It's a privilege, an adventure. Your instinct is to school with a huge peer group and take on the world, follow the good weather to greener pastures. So listen to that urge, use the force. It's what geeks do too, using engineering.

Nature films always make it sound like the animals hate their day jobs, get dragged through life kicking and screaming the whole way instead of just towards the end (and even then, some go peacefully). Left to their own devices in the wild, most animals are actually quite professional, know what they're doing, although those birds of paradise looked pretty crazy doing it and the lynx just seemed lonely (and beautiful).

Given I'm always thinking about the peekaboo invisible camera, the faux "3rd person" of novelesque origins (knows what everyone's thinking, some spy on steroids, every gossip's dream vantage point), I was gratified to see some of those "dork outtakes" at the end, reminding us that humans are making this show, and we push to extremes as well, just to get this film in the can.

But pushing the envelope in the human sphere is not like what that cheetah does, so slender and graceful. When it comes to outward athletics, we're more like that gazelle, one long slow fumble, very NFL -- and so then onward to something new? (or repeat the same level? -- no I'm not an authority here, go ask someone with a badge maybe)).

Back to mom and calf whale (not sure "calf" was a good name for those), we've generally moved from semi-happy camper family to possible predator in the wings, so when the water starts boiling and our storyteller turns ominous, I'm thinking "oh no, what now? -- whalers in submarines?" (only half joking).

Actually, humans don't star as vicious predators in this movie (not Fast Food Nation), more just as uber-voyeurs (what they're best at -- spectating), watching papa bear die without any friends, instead of throwing him a TV dinner or something, some government program...

No, not whalers, and actually it's bait and switch, because what gets eaten in the end is an innocent seal, just swimming along minding his own business. Maybe watch the Youtube trailer (46th second), or don't let me spoil it for ya and see the whole movie, on a big screen with children.

Any little ones, their first time to a nature film, and who thought Planet Earth was an entirely safe ship, won't think that upon leaving (or so we hope). The world is a dangerous place. That's what Disney always does so well: professionally scares children -- including those inner ones adults cling to -- all while keeping that golden G rating.

Mother Nature: having some no kidding fun in the sun.