Not-So-New Frontiers by ProQuest


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                            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
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