Earth Review
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In celebration of Earth Day, Disneynature is releasing their first nature documentary, Earth. But, for many of you, this stunning feature will be déjà vu all over again.

Narrated by James Earl Jones, Earth travels around the planet for a full year, showing the different seasons in various natural environments—from winter in the arctic to summer in a North American forest—getting up close and personal with several species of both plants and animals as it continues on its journey around the globe.

Along the way, viewers are introduced to the birds of New Guinea, the polar bears of the arctic, and the elephants of the Kalahari Desert. They see flowers blooming and trees blossoming. They watch the massive caribou migration across the tundra, and they join a female humpback whale and her calf as they travel thousands of miles from the tropics to feed.

  
 
Earth is a gorgeous nature film. It’s often touching, it’s often humorous (especially when the monkeys, penguins, or birds of paradise are involved), and it’s always awe-inspiring. And with its subtle (not preachy) environmental message, it’ll make you leave the theater wanting to do more to save the beautiful creatures that share our planet.

Everything about the film is exquisitely done. The film’s cinematography is stunning—from the grand, sweeping aerial photography to the breathtaking close-ups that show every last detail, right down to the fuzz on the baby ducks. And the sound of a pride of lions roaring all around you (in perfect surround sound) is something you won’t soon forget.

Still, for those of you who have seen the BBC’s popular 11-episode nature series, Planet Earth, there’s really nothing new to see here. This 90-minute film is basically a feature-length edit of the series, with Jones replacing original narrator David Attenborough (apparently to make it seem more American).

This kind of major edit comes with some challenges, and Earth loses some of its interest along the way. After all, a filmmaker (or, in this case, a team of thousands of filmmakers) can do a lot in 14 hour-long episodes. They can cover settings and species in detail; they can tell stories. This time, however, you just get a quick overview of a bunch of nature stuff, presented mostly in short, random snippets. Though the film does focus a bit more on the whales, the elephants, and, especially, the polar bears (who open and close the film), there isn’t much to hold the film together in some kind of cohesive manner. Even the year-in-the-life-of-the-planet theme seems to get lost along the way. And, because of the lack of cohesiveness, the film feels longer than its 90-minute runtime.

If you haven’t seen Planet Earth, Disneynature’s Earth is worth checking out—especially on the big screen. It’s a dazzling film—and a great introduction to the planet’s other living things. But if you’ve already seen the BBC series, you’ll be disappointed by the lack of new material—so you might want to find another way to celebrate Earth Day this year.


Blu-ray Review:
Disneynature’s Earth is the kind of movie that makes you want to run right out and buy a Blu-ray player (if you haven’t already, that is). The photography is so crisp and stunning that regular DVD playback just won’t do.

But if the movie’s stunning cinematography alone isn’t enough for you, the Blu-ray release also offers a few extras—including the making-of feature, Earth Diaries. More than just a few minutes of behind-the-scenes footage (like the stuff that shows during the film’s closing credits), this is actually a full 40-minute feature, loaded with interviews, stories, and extra footage, showing how massive an undertaking this five-year project really was.

You can also choose to watch the film with the Filmmaker Annotations option, which is like an enhanced commentary—offering pop-up facts, along with picture-in-picture interviews with the filmmakers and other wildlife experts.

This CliffsNotes version of the BBC’s Planet Earth series is arguably the most spectacular nature film ever made. So if you missed Earth in theaters—or if you just want to relive the experience over and over again—Blu-ray is definitely the way to go.

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