March of the Penguins - Review
Review by Jack Foley
DVD SPECIAL FEATURES: Of Penguins And Men – behind the scenes; National Geographic’s Crittercam: Emperor Penguins featurette; 8 Ball Bunny – Bugs Bunny cartoon; Theatrical Trailer.
LUC Jacquet’s astonishing labour of love, March of the Penguins, became a US box office sensation in the summer when it out-performed many blockbusters to become the first natural history film to succeed as mainstream entertainment.
Its fascinating tale recounts the journey undertaken each year by Emperor penguins in Antarctica as they travel to and from breeding grounds to rear their young in some of the harshest conditions on Earth.
It is an awe-inspiring insight into life against the odds that has been billed as a love story, emerging as a genuine heart-warmer from the coldest of climates.
Jacquet spent 13 months filming the penguins, amassing over 150 hours of footage that has subsequently been trimmed into an 85-minute movie narrated by Morgan Freeman.
The film begins as the penguins begin their trek to the breeding grounds where they p-p-pick a partner, mate and then begin the perilous process of giving birth to their young.
Once the mother has laid the egg she must pass it over to her ‘husband’ (penguins remain monogomous for one year) before travelling back to the ocean to feed.
It is left to the male penguin, therefore, to brave some of the most inhospitable weather nature has to offer and provide the warmth and shelter needed for the egg to hatch.
Once this has been achieved, he must hope that ‘mum’ can make it back safely so that he, too, can venture off in search of food.
Needless to say, not every bird makes it – some mothers die from exhaustion, some eggs are lost in the ice, while predators frequently pose a threat to both offspring and parents somewhere along the process.
Jacquet’s film does show some of the tragedies that befall the penguins but chooses not to dwell – preferring instead to bask in the beauty of one of nature’s biggest endurance tests.
His film may be accused of being rose-tinted, therefore, but works in spite of such flaws to present a remarkable depiction of love and parenthood.
As a result, audiences can sit back and marvel at some truly beautiful images of Antarctica, as well as some amazing footage of penguin survival – both above and under the ice.
There is the odd moment of humour, too, such as young penguins playing with each other, or the sight of over-eager penguins diving into the same small hole at the same time in search of food, or simply slipping over on the ice.
It is easy to see why the film succeeded in capturing the hearts of US audiences given its shameless celebration of life.
It is a cute and spellbinding documentary that is well worth unwrapping as part of your festive cinema-going.