|March of the Penguins (2005)
Starring: Morgan Freeman, Emperor Penguins
Director: Luc Jacquet
ALSO! Check out where it ranked in our 2005 Year in Review.
After feeding for months, the Emperor Penguin pops out of the ocean and begins its 70 mile-long march to its breeding ground. Walking single-file, penguins by the thousands, whether they have been there before or not, instinctively march for months with no food or water to where the ice is thick. Once there, the penguins simply pair off, mate, and lay their eggs. Near death, the female penguin carefully transfers the egg to the protection of the male, and marches miles back to the sea to feed. While she is gone, the males huddle together for warmth for months, not budging. Using their feet to cradle the egg off the ice and keeping it covered under their abdominal flaps, they protect the egg through a long and punishing winter, waiting for their mates to return to them.
This is just the beginning of the Emperor Penguins story that is so richly and simply told in the documentary feature “March of the Penguins.” Elegantly written and directed by Luc Jacquet and narrated with grace by actor Morgan Freeman, the film is presented to the audience in a manner as unique as the penguins themselves. Rather than simply photographing the penguins and blandly documenting their behavior, Jacquet treats the audience to a traditional story of life, love, and survival against incalculable odds. By the end of this film you care about what happens to these animals and want them to succeed in their struggle to merely exist.
It’s difficult not to root for the penguins in this film. They are magnificent to look at with the subtlety of their coloring, and even more so for the charm of their mannerisms. Jacquet makes it easy to relate to them, taking any opportunity to show us the humanlike traits they display. They are simple creatures, but there seems to be something more to them that cannot be adequately explained. Just the clumsiness of their bodies and their gait endears them to the audience, and the fact that this hasn’t stopped them from surviving is inspirational.
Jacquet also manages to show not only the beauty of penguins and their story but that of Antarctica as well. The camera lovingly sweeps across the grand vistas of the continent, and even plunges into the icy waters where the penguins spend most of their lives. Throughout the film, one wonders what the crew must have gone through to get some of the shots, but in one of the many great features of this film, as the credits roll, we are shown the crew battling the extreme conditions of their environment and some of what they endured to make this picture.
In the coldest and most desolate place on earth one species has overcome unimaginable odds and not only survived, but thrived in the harsh and unforgiving landscape found at the bottom of the world. The Emperor Penguin of Antarctica is a truly amazing and fascinating species whose story is told so well in “March of the Penguins.” This extraordinary and accomplished piece of filmmaking simultaneously shows the beauty and the brutality of nature as it relates to this remarkable creature and its annual mating ritual, but also finds a way of being one of the most entertaining films all summer.
The widescreen DVD release of "March of the Penguins" includes an inside look at the filmmaking process of the movie, never-before-seen clips of the penguins diving and feeding, and "8 Ball Bunny," a classic animated short with Bugs Bunny and penguins. We know there's not too much to get excited about, but it's not a bad selection for a documentary.