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March Of The Penguins (DVD) Review
One of the more surprising films of 2005, and perhaps the most intriguing, was March Of The Penguins, a full-length feature film documentary cut from the same mold as a PBS National Geographic special. Directed by Luc Jacquet, the film had its origins in France, but the narrative theme is neither French, nor English, or for that matter, reflective of any nation’s cultural influence. Instead, March Of The Penguins is a truly rare cinematic masterpiece that transcends borders, language, and culture. Its brilliant portrayal of the Emperor penguin in his natural habitat offers universal appeal to audiences everywhere by reinforcing the themes of love, companionship, life, and the struggle to overcome the hardships of an oftentimes cruel and unforgiving world.
The US version of March Of The Penguins is narrated by Morgan Freeman, a stellar choice for the role as his precise, yet folksy, voice serves to underscore the magnitude and the magic of the annual journey endured by these fascinating animals. The visuals of the film are powerful in their own right, but I doubt the movie would’ve enjoyed the massive commercial success it did without the strength of Freeman’s performance. In the opening scenes, Freeman introduces us to the Emperor penguin and its icy homeland of Antarctica. As winter approaches, penguins from all over the continent make an instinctive annual voyage across rugged and inhospitable terrain in search of the ancient Emperor penguin mating ground.
Along the way, audiences learn every particular detail of the arduous task that awaits the Emperor penguins. With thousands gathered together, each must find a mate. Once the relationship has been consummated, a single egg is the product of their pairing. But the egg is fragile, subject to easy fracture and the hazardous conditions of extremely low temperatures. As such, the male penguin must protect the egg while the female returns to the ocean in search of food for herself and her yet to be born offspring. In the interim, high winds, driving snow, and freezing elements pound away at the swarm of male penguins as they desperately protect their respective eggs. Amazingly, the herd instinctively protects itself from the relentless cold by rotating those on the outside into the middle and vice versa, so that the burden of the cold weather is shared equally by all.
Once winter subsides and the females return, the newly hatched baby penguins face the additional threat of predators. The males must make their own journey to the ocean, and the budding toddler penguins must be initiated into the ways of their world, all so the process can take full-circle and start all over again next year.
One of the highest grossing theatrical documentaries ever released, March Of The Penguins is an utterly fascinating film. In contrast to the usual mind-numbing action-packed blockbusters produced by Hollywood (and demanded by those of us in the viewing public), March Of The Penguins is both educational and entertaining. You’ll find yourself perched on the edge of your seat in anticipation as these rugged creatures engage with the harshest elements of nature. You’ll root for the heroes and boo the villains, but despite the absence of a contrived Hollywood plot, you’ll find yourself truly captivated by this charming film – the story of struggle, the story of triumph, the story of life… March of the Penguins.
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