Movie review: Earth

I was pretty disappointed by Disney’s Earth. I like anthropomorphic animals as much as the next geek, but I want them animated. I prefer my nature films to be documentaries, thanks.

High crimes:

  • Referring to every animal as either “Mom,” “Dad,” or “the baby.”
  • Suggesting through clever editing and James Earl Jones narration that all animals have a nuclear family where Mom and Dad take care of the baby.
  • Overly dramatic music
  • Setting up everything as a life-and-death struggle, except the life-and-death struggles

If you took this film as a documentary, you could leave with the following misinformation:

  • Whale and polar bear moms make radical sacrifices and heroically starve themselves for the good of their babies. Corollary: All animals are starving to death or dying of thirst, all the time.
  • All water in the Kalahari comes from snows in the Himalayas.
  • Daffodils are native flowers in the northern forests.
  • Predators are evil.

Things I wish the movie had:

  • Labels. What were those amazing fungi in the tropics? The one that generated its own geodesic dome, and the pulsating orange one (a slime mold, maybe?)
  • Maps. What are those migration routes? Where is the Kalahari Desert?
  • Diagrams. How is a six-plumed bird of paradise constructed? Are those its wings, or some other feathered structure? And was it really designed by Apple?

Things the movie did really well:

  • Time lapse photography. Absolutely amazing shots of a mountainside changing color with the seasons, the succession of spring blossoms, the growth of a slime mold, etc.
  • Rather astounding footage of a great white shark catching a seal snack. Four times in a row…
  • Um…

I don’t remember the actual series having this much…Disney-fication. So, if you want a live-action Disney movie, give it a try. Give me a good documentary any day and keep the fuzzy happy plot.



  1. Ken said,

    April 30, 2009 at 4:56 pm

    I hadn’t heard of the film… perhaps it’s just as well.
    Still, seals *are* tasty, and it’s good that they let us savor it.
    And: I ❤ time-lapse photography.

    ::Setting up everything as a life-and-death struggle, except the life-and-death struggles::

    Would you say more about that? The faux-drama part, is of course par for the course for many nature documentaries; but what about the other part? Is this just a matter of pulling punches, not wanting people to really grasp the impact of real death? Sounds like a weirdly probably situation…

  2. April 30, 2009 at 5:57 pm

    […] Originally posted here: Movie review: Earth « Eat Close To Home […]

  3. Suzie said,

    April 30, 2009 at 6:15 pm

    > Daffodils are native flowers in the northern forests

    AAAAAARRRRRRRRRRGGGGGGGGGGGGGGHHHHHHHHHHHHHH! Hey, I love daffodils as much as anybody else, in a spring garden. Our forests have enough trouble on their own. (earthworms, I’m lookin’ at you.)

    Probably still worth seeing, for me, despite its faults. Because even if I *know* I dont’ get to learn what those cool fungi are, I am now DYING to see them. 🙂

  4. ilex said,

    April 30, 2009 at 8:48 pm

    I thought I might like to see this, but now, no way. Most helpful review.

    A lot of the footage they used in the Disneyfied movie seems to be the same as Attenboro’s BBC Planet Earth series, which was sadly, badly repackaged for the US market, featuring Sigourney Weaver’s melodramatic voiceover and some truly awful copy. I got through about 20 minutes of it.

    The Attenboro version is supposed to be outstanding, though, if the powers that be have printed a copy which will play on US DVD players.

  5. May 1, 2009 at 12:03 am

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  6. May 1, 2009 at 3:11 am

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  7. May 2, 2009 at 7:57 am

    The original BBC version is available on NetFlix, and is a wonderful series. We started watching the US version later, and could not do it.

    Sounds like they just did their usual dumbing-down, sapping-up, for-the-brainwashed-masses production.

    • Emily said,

      May 2, 2009 at 9:04 am

      That’s good to know – I went because I’d heard such rave reviews of the BBC version!

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