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March of the Penguins

August 19th, 2005 (09:02 am)
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© 2005 D. Gordon. First Posted on Third Eye.


So I saw the penguin movie last night.

Great cinematography (the underwater video had me wondering for a good long time just how they pulled that off), cute stars, and a good cover of "the mystery of nature."

But...

Ironically enough, my feelings about Timothy Treadwell's actions (Grizzy Man) - respect the bears, but understand this is nature, not a petting zoo - play a big role in my attitude towards this picture. For me, anthropomorphism is a bad word. I actively dislike pretending that animals are humans.

I'm also one in a line of very analytical people. I can definitely get into a good story, but I also like finding out facts and figures.

So I would have much preferred a movie that did take the "Mutual of Omaha" approach, that gave some basic facts about penguins and their habitat. I heard several times about how "some of these eggs / chicks / mothers / fathers won't make it through the winter" (who'da thunk?), but it wasn't until the closing credits, when they showed some of the footage of the researchers filming, that I even got any idea of how tall these penguins were (I was thinking 3-4 feet - which according to my biologist relatives is a normal height for an Emperor penguin - but they looked more like 1.5 - 2 feet).

As I mentioned before, my sister's a biologist, so she might know some of my unanswered questions, but I walked away with some definite gaps. Why were the penguin couples standing against each other? For warmth? Learning each other's scent? Something else? Do all Emperor penguins (or this particular genus) go to this one spot? Is it the fat or the feathers (or some combo) that enables them to put up with the extreme temperatures? How far do the birds go once they're mature enough to swim? All I can say is: I don't know.

So: it was cute enough, it was a pretty good movie to take a kid to, it's better than most of the stuff that's been coming down the pike lately - all good things - but I just didn't get all that much out of it. I don't regret having gone, but it's not going to make my "best-of" list.

One last thought: Should it have had any sort of "message"? As I understand it, it was filmed by researchers, not by nature photographers, so I would have expected some sort of mention of habitant degradation. I don't know why it doesn't, but I don't think that was a necessary ingredient in this story - or why it only made me lukewarm.