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Awe-inspiring Earth

Movies | Film offers a child-friendly look at creation

Issue: "On the road again," May 9, 2009

In this world of booming video games, computer special effects, and instant gratification, a feeling of awe can be elusive. A new movie called Earth brings it back.

With spectacular filming, a clear affection for its subject, and a refreshing lack of agenda, DisneyNature's Earth presents some jaw-dropping, spine-shivering moments. Narrated by James Earl Jones, the documentary film begins in the frozen far North, where a mother polar bear is introducing her fluffy, cuddly cubs to the world for the first time, then travels to the equator to check in on a mother and baby elephant as they search for water. Finally, it plunges into tropical waters to follow a mother humpback whale and her calf as they travel to Antarctica for food. Along the way, it checks in on dozens of species in each region.

The film is created for mass consumption, and for children. There are lots of babies being cute, from ducklings making their first awkward attempts at flight to baby baboons clinging to their mothers' backs. It sidesteps shots of death. As one cheetah chases down a gazelle, directors Alastair Fothergill and Mark Linfield slow down the action and put it to operatic music; it's almost like a passionate dance.

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However, a death of one of the main characters, while not graphic, may be upsetting to small children. The film also avoids descriptions of mating, while still poking fun at the desperately flamboyant antics of birds of paradise. Another omission, glaring in its silence, is any mention of evolution. The animals just are; the viewer is left to decide how they came to be.

The film carries a warning on global warming. But beyond trendy causes, it helps the viewer appreciate creation as a window into the character of the Creator, and it highlights the loss we suffer when the masterpiece of creation is tarnished. Occasionally confusing, and perhaps a bit too long, the film could have used a touch more tweaking, but these things fade away in the light of all it gets right.

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