Earth, the first release from the new arm of Disney, DisneyNature, may be the most beautifully shot film you will see all year – and James Earl Jones could make the phone book sound great. Unfortunately, the cinematography is really the only stellar part of the film.
The trailer for Earth says it follows three animal families. That’s only partially true. Besides the attention spent on the polar bear family, the elephant family and the whale family, we get detours to watch wolves stalk caribou, baboons having a problem with “waterfront property,” and penguins [which have their own, “built-in toboggans”]. The result is that, of the film’s ninety-six minutes, after digressions and credits, there’s about eighty minutes split between the three families – most of it on the elephants.
This means that there’s too much story to give any one group its due. The film would have been much better if it had focused on two families, or even just one. As it is, the storytelling is thin and hollow – though Jones sounds as wonderful as ever. About the only part of the story that works completely is the way the filmmakers point out how our ecology is changing
Other problems include the soundtrack, where the score is way too loud [seriously, it’s louder than the soundtrack for Martin Scorsese’s Rolling Stones concert film, Shine a Light – and that was not quiet!]. Then there’s the Dissociative Identity Disorder in the script, which can’t make up its mind whether the animals should be made to seem human-like, or not. The waffling here is kind of disturbing.
Then there’s the whole “circle of life” thing. We are told about the hazards that exist for these animals, but every time we get to the point where an animal is caught by a predator, the camera discreetly cuts away from that equally important part of said “circle.” If you’re going to deal with life in the wilds, then do it. Don’t back off the bad stuff. That’s kinda hypocritical – not to mention uninteresting.
If you decide to check out Earth, stay for the credits. That’s where the really interesting stuff happens – clips that show how some of the best shots were gotten – and some of the problems arising from the methods used in filming.
Final Grade: C