Sixty years ago, Disney’s True-Life Adventures blazed the trail for nature filmmaking. Today, after basic cable and other family-friendly documentaries have picked up the slack, it feels like the company’s bringing up the rear.
Co-directors Alastair Fothergill and Mark Linfield fashion a “year in the life of the planet,” spanning the globe for epic tales of survival (and cute babies) narrated by James Earl Jones. Stories of parent-child journeys involving polar bears, humpback whales and elephants provide the narrative backbone, but Earth attempts to cover a lot of additional ground — warning of climate change, observing time-lapse images of changing seasons, soaring shots of thundering herds and crashing waterfalls.
And without a clear identity, it’s often merely a reminder of things that IMAX documentaries Arctic Tale, Winged Migration and even Discovery Channel’s Shark Week have done better. It plays like a sampler platter of the last 30 years of nature docs.
It’s not that Earth can’t manage a few gripping moments. There’s great night-vision footage of a pride of lions taking down a full-grown elephant and terrific footage of preening New Guinean birds of paradise. But it might actually be most fascinating watching the filmmakers at their risk-taking work during the closing credits.
Maybe the commitment of people who still want to show us the world’s wonders is a true-life adventure that would really feel new. Grade: C
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