March of the Penguins (2005)

March of the Penguins (2005)

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Penguins also come in fluffy editions.
Penguins also come in fluffy editions.

Twitter Plot Summary: Morgan Freeman narrates a documentary about a group of Emperor Penguins in the Antarctic.

What better combination is there than shots of amazing natural landscapes and animals being narrated by Morgan Freeman? Very little in human existence is likely to come close, and that is reason enough for March of the Penguins being a hugely entertaining (and award winning) nature documentary. It’s not just Morgan Freeman of course – there’s some solid nature film work going on here, but he must at least be a contributing factor.

Focusing purely on Emperor Penguins and their efforts to survive in the harsh environment of the Antarctic, the documentary is designed to provide solid family entertainment whilst using the natural world to tell a story that all viewers young and old can understand and appreciate. As expected, an obligatory light orchestral theme accompanies the penguins on their journey, following a group of Emperor Penguins as they make their annual trip to their breeding grounds and to usher in a new generation of penguins.

Much like the sterling work from David Attenborough, March of the Penguins doesn’t hide from the realities of the natural world – it’s inevitable that some of them will die on their journey or as a result of the extreme cold, but that’s okay. If nothing else it prepares the young audience for the way the world works without shielding them from its darker moments. On the other hand, besides the basic “love story” angle which the makers have used, it’s a very dry presentation of the existence of Emperor Penguins. Morgan Freeman does elevate this beyond what could have easily been a very humdrum analysis.

The queue for the fish and chip shop was horrendous.
The queue for the fish and chip shop was horrendous.

With that said, a lot of information is passed on to the audience in a simple yet effective manner, advising on the rituals the penguins follow, how they survive for months on end without food, and the perils they face besides the weather – predators of all sizes and descriptions. It’s a compelling story even if there is little in terms of the audience’s investment in the penguins – none are given a name or personality and they are, it seems, to be considered as a group rather than as creatures with their distinct foibles and personalities. Whilst anthropomorphising is totally out of the question, they could at least have been given something to distinguish them. Instead we have a general mass of penguins and watch events unfold with an unattached, almost unfeeling eye.

The natural world will always remain a fascinating subject, and dedicating an entire movie to this one animal is a great idea. At the same time, it feels like it pales in comparison to the work from David Attenborough which still manages to tell a gripping story using the natural world as its canvas. Still, to compare anything against Attenborough’s work will always result in a negative comparison, so let’s judge March Of The Penguins on its own merits. The natural world as presented is shown in all its glory, as are the penguins and their journey. Just a touch more effort in terms of characterising the penguins, or picking some out specifically for this purpose, would have gone a long way to resolve the conflicting desire to experience a narrative.

Score: 4/5

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