Earth - Theater
andyo review: * * *
Before I took my kids to see the new Disneynature film Earth, I listened to an interview with the directors, Alastair Fothergill and Mark Linfield, on NPR's Fresh Air with Terry Gross. The film sounded extraordinary.
Now that I've seen it, I do think the images are extraordinary. But I realize that part of what made the interview interesting was hearing about how they got all those amazing shots of the animals. It sounds like one of the real stars of the film is the new "Cineflex" camera, which is a gyrostabilized camera, mounted under a helicopter that can shoot close-ups up to a mile away. This is how they got many of the amazing images in this film.
I once read a quote about filmmaking (I think from Roger Ebert) that goes something like this: A film has to be better and more interesting than an alternate film of the actors and filmmakers sitting around talking about the film. In many ways, at least for me, I was more interested in the making of this film -- and I think this is the reason the closing credits of the filmmakers (running from Polar Bears, running into trees in a hot air balloon) has so much energy.
This doesn't mean I'm taking anything away from the images of this film, which are amazing -- but I think a more non-traditional story of what it took to make this film and the amazing images would have been yielded a more interesting final film. It also would have provided a narrative thread that seems missing from Earth. (Contrary to the trailers and posters, this film explores more than the migratory journeys of polar bears, whales, and elephants.)
I only offer this evidence for my alternate vision of this film: My 4-year-old lost interest in Earth after 30 minutes. I think this is because human beings can only identify with animals for so long before they get bored. When I walked my 4-year-old to the bathroom near the last quarter of the film, I was surprised to see so many kids sleeping in their chairs or on their parents.
The only other criticism I have is the obvious special effects shot of the birds migrating over the Himalayas. I wonder why the filmmakers felt they needed this in the film if they didn't have the real footage? Juxtaposed next to the other extraordinary images in Earth, this sequence falls flat (except for the time-lapse shot of the Himalayas during night, with the stars spinning in the sky overhead).