March Of The Penguins

 
Directed by: Luc Jacquet
Released: March 30, 2006
Grade: B

The surprise story of the 2005 cinematic calendar in the United States was March Of The Penguins.  It earned an incredible $75m at the box-office and won the Oscar for best documentary feature.  If you like movie trivia, you’ll be interested to know that this was the first time in history that the best documentary winner made more money than the best picture winner (Crash made just $54m).  Is it a sign of the times?

March Of The Penguins looks at the unusual mating ritual of the emperor penguin.  It will be an eye-opening experience for those learning of it for the first time.  Once you’ve seen it, you’ll have to agree that few other animals go through such an arduous experience to reproduce.  Both the male and female will suffer and it’s hard to believe they go through this experience every year!

This documentary has been put together by French director Luc Jacquet who had initially planned to release the film as a television movie.  Such was the quality of footage however, that the chance was taken to produce a full length motion picture and distribute it world-wide.  The crew battled Antarctic temperatures of -20oC and winds which exceeded 150 km/h.  They finished with 120 hours of footage shot over the course of one year.  The best 85 minutes is what you will get to see.

The English version of the film has been narrated by Morgan Freeman and I have qualms about what he has to say.  The narrative is overdramatised and continual references are made to the “many” penguins and babies who don’t survive.  You’d think that with all the dangers mentioned, that hardly any would make it through but from information provided to me, I can reveal that roughly 74% of penguin chicks survive from the time they are conceived until the time they take their first swim in the ocean.

The quality of footage is remarkable but its feels repetitive when watching it for 85 minutes.  All we really see is a mixture of wide panoramic shots and some close-ups of the penguins protecting their young.  Research on the internet has told me a lot more about the lives of emperor penguins and I’m disappointed that more information isn’t included in the movie.  In my honest opinion, the story is told far too simply.