Movie News & Reviews

'EARTH' balances gorgegous scenes, Jones' narration

If there's one genre that keeps on recycling the same plot lines overand over again, it's the nature documentary.

Here's what these people consider high drama: Get to the food beforeyou die. There you go, I just wrote like 50 documentaries. You'dthink, just once, one of these hacks would mix it up with some of theother rich drama to be found in the animal kingdom, like getting tothe water before you die.

These shows also prove that most of the complaints leveled at today'sfilm and TV are vastly overblown, because as in entertainment, thebest parts of the natural world are the sex and the violence. In fact,if you added a subplot to every episode of House or CSIwhere a character had to get to Burger King before he died ofmalnutrition, then ran it side by side with Wild Kingdom, noone would be able to tell the difference. Some might say that's theproblem with modern media, but I say that's why nature documentariessuch as Disney's EARTH are so damn great.

Spanning both poles and most places between, EARTH follows theprogression of seasons and their meaning for the polar bears, foxes,swordfish, and a score of other animals that live outside the humanworld.

Often, they look a whole lot farther away than that. Visually,EARTH is never not gorgeous; both its animals and itslandscapes look more vivid than whatever grimy, real-life office orclassroom you're reading this in instead of slaving away on that workthat doesn't really need doing in the first place. These animals allhunt, breed, travel and die without trading chunks of their livesdoing some other jerk's bidding, and after you've seen some of whatthe rest of the world is up to — especially the swordfish and southernlights, which are so unreally beautiful they're like the CG of 20years from now — you might consider joining them.

Fellow Discovery Channel junkies will be familiar with some of theshots, but there's nothing like seeing a white shark eating a seal ona 40-foot screen to remind you that the world is terrifying and youshould never step foot in it again. Frankly, when they're this good,it's no chore to watch them for a second time.

The eye candy's augmented by the narration of Darth Vader himself.James Earl Jones' voice is so great he could be reading my own epitaphand I'd be happy about it. Here, he blends his usual dignity with alight humor that never gets too cutesy.

But this kind of documentary is at its best when there's no humanelement at all. EARTH understands that, a lot of the time, theway to say something special about the world is to let the shots speakfor themselves. If all they have to say is "Hey, sometimes this placeis really, really beautiful," it's a sentiment worth remembering.

Grade: B