[...] the film's epilogue desperately tries to defuse Earth's candor with an isn't-nature-eternally-wonderful peroration, accompanied by music that sings of many bright tomorrows. [...] the very word "deserve" has no place outside our species.
Screen Richard Alleva Not-So-New Frontiers ‘EARTH’ & ‘STAR TREk’ I remember Walt Disney’s you were nutty enough to sit through (well, we are told he is the father), sep- “True-Life Adventures” of Earth with your eyes shut. Then the arated from mother and cubs and feel- the 1940s and ’50s with narration (unctuously intoned by James ing his own death at hand, attacks a liv- little fondness. Indeed, Earl Jones) would carry you straight back ing wall of walruses in order to get at the The African Lion, The Liv- to the days and ways of “True-Life” and walrus pups, who are defended by the ing Desert, and all the others Winston Hibler: “This creature [a lynx] tusks and blubber of their elders. In ear- bored me to a state of stupe- is the essence of wilderness”; “Their fa- lier nature films, a baby animal was au- faction. Back then, my idea of ther’s spirit will live on in the little polar tomatically good, its predator automat- exploring frozen tundra was to look into bears’ hearts”; and, when a bird of para- ically evil, and so we would root for the the icebox to see if my sister had eaten all dise begins a mating dance, “Get down, walruses against the polar bear. But Earth the Popsicles, and the only savannah on baby!” Mother Nature sure is funky. Fi- dispenses with that easy sentimentality. my horizon was the front lawn I had to nally, the film’s epilogue desperately By the time we come to the bear’s last mow. Obviously, my lack of enthusiasm tries to defuse Earth’s candor with an stand, we have been with him on his des- for all nature documentaries testified to isn’t-nature-eternally-wonderful per- perate trek and understand his suffering. my own limitations, not Disney’s. oration, accompanied by music that He doesn’t deserve to die any more than Well, maybe Disney was to blame, too. sings of many bright tomorrows. But as the walrus pups do. In fact, the very word For all the Oscars they won, those nature long as you go with your eyes open, this “deserve” has no place outside our spe- films propped up their often impressive movie will open them wider. cies. Nor does the word “tragedy” apply, visuals with cute, anthropomorphiz- It’s difficult to impose a dramatic shape although when the thwarted bear sinks ing commentary (spoken by Winston on natural activities, but by concentrat- down to await his end, close to the now Hibler)—“this little eagle has spread ing on certain animal groups—elephants, quiet and utterly indifferent walruses, I his wings, but he’s not quite ready for polar bears, rain-forest birds, humpback did feel as if I were watching a warrior die the Air Force Academy yet”—and even whales, lions—and following them as beside an eerily uncaring chorus. Again, cuter mock-sardonic musical accompa- they trek for food, the movie takes on that was my sentiment-hungry human niment—Verdi’s “Anvil Chorus” as a a suspenseful momentum: forced along nature reacting to magnificent imagery. soundtrack for rival male elks clashing not only by changes of season but also This movie, more than any other doc- horns. Worse still, the editing and nar- by human interference with nature’s cli- umentary I’ve seen, lays before us both ration shaped the action so that the lives mate, the beasts are racing against their the radical innocence and the radical of beasts became the success story of one own dwindling strength. ruthlessness of nature. But since it is a particular lion or beaver, enduring hard- The plight of a family of polar bears nature illegitimately tampered with by ships and prevailing over all enemies. is near the core of Earth’s pathos. De- humanity, our awe must be mixed with
Pages to are hidden for
"Not-So-New Frontiers"Please download to view full document