EARTH (2007)



(director/writer: Alastair Fothergill and Mark Linfield; screenwriter: Leslie Megahey; cinematographers: Richard Brooks Burton/Mike Holding/Andrew Shillabeer; editor: Martin Elsbury; music: George Fenton; cast: James Earl Jones (Narrator); Runtime: 90; MPAA Rating: G; producers: Sophokles Tasioulis/Alix Tidmarsh; Disneynature Films; 2007)

“It’s not only a good watch but is informative.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

There’s no graphic violence in this child-friendly nature film, but there are quite a few exciting chases of animals fighting for survival. The visually pleasing Disney film is co-directed by Alastair Fothergill and Mark Linfield and narrated by James Earl Jones (in the American version). It was taken from BBC/Discovery’s Planet Earth 12-hour miniseries, but it added mostly new footage for the big screen.

It was reportedly shot by some 60 cameramen. The nature film begins in January and takes us around the world through an entire season. The focus is on the harsh reality of life for three animal families: polar bears (faced with food shortage because of melting ice caps), Elephants (thirstily tracking through a blinding desert dust storm in Africa) and humpback whales (migrating to tropical waters for food). Other animals on display include exotic tropical birds, duck chicks, penguins, baboons, caribous and many others.

The $40 million invested for camerawork pays off with the following first-class shots: migrating cranes crossing the Himalayas, aerial shots of caribou calves being attacked by predators, a wolf tracking down a stray caribou, a cheetah (going about 40 mph) outracing its prey, elephants trying to protect their babies at night from an attacking pride of lions, an exhausted and emaciated male polar bear stranded on a sea of thin ice and coming ashore to attack a herd of walrus to try and pry away a calf from his protective mother, cute polar bear cubs taking their first steps on the Arctic slopes, and the humpback whales trying to avoid a great white shark leaping out of the water bearing sharp teeth as it devours a sea lion.

The film’s major flaws are that it’s too bland, gets too cutesy and too anthropomorphic. But it can be forgiven for such sins, as we are treated to breathtaking images of rare wildlife footage from some 68 countries via the latest technology. It’s not only a good watch but is informative—its PC message being it’s up to mankind to save the planet from ecological disasters such as global warming.

This is the first in the new label Disney Nature lineup of family nature films (hoping to bring back to favor the tradition of nature documentaries that Walt Disney pioneered in the 1950s).