I chose to see "March of the Penguins" as a diversion to a 100+ degree day, and saw that cold weather is worse than hot weather. Now, in the brisk part of autumn, it still holds up.
Penguins from several areas of Antarctica converge on land, safe from predators and the ebbing ice shelf. They are there to mate, birth, and care for their chick.
Monogamous for that year, penguins pair up and the mother lays an egg.
The mother dashes off back to the sea, which, thanks to the winter and new ice, is as far as 70 miles. She's starving, having lost one-third of her weight in laying the egg. The trip is long, and she's not fast. Hungry seals await them, some penguins lose their way, and some are too exhausted to continue.
Well-fed, full of food for her chick, she returns, and the father makes the same trip so he can eat. The father stayed behind to incubate the egg, and protect the new chick. He has lost one half of his weight.
The pair trade places a few more times as winter plods on. With temperatures 80 below zero, and winds up to 125, I felt cold just watching. The penguins huddle to keep warm, rotating which must do outside duty.
Morgan Freeman narrates. His voice does not overcome the story. Better written than any documentary I have ever seen, Freeman respects the script. Having never seen a documentary in a theater before, I was impressed at how well it worked on the big screen.
There is no plot, even though there is a beginning and an end. Unlike many documentaries, it does not detail the intricacies of eating, mate choosing, or science of penguin living. It is more about watching the arduous life cycle, with some explaining what we are watching.
The camera works captures the cold -- the shivering penguins, the snow blowing like dust over the long line of marching penguins. It reminded me of movies about Siberia, showing Soviets living in a frozen, cold natural prison.
This isn't a cute animal movie. Tender children might be saddened to see the eggs and chicks freezing, and could be quite frightened when the vicious seals overtake swimming penguins.
Now, with the ever-funny Bugs Bunny in "8 Ball Bunny," the kid-factor increases. Still, even as Bugs graces your home viewing experience, be careful with more impressionable children and the feature documentary.
Another DVD feature: Rodney the Penguin assists in "Crittercam: Emperor Penguins," as we learn how some of the complex videography was really shot.
I fully recommend "March of the Penguins."
on September 30, 2005
Morgan Freeman narrates this beautiful, moving, sometimes sad, often beautiful documentary (that actually does well on the big screen). There are no big stars in this, just thousands of the cutest most beautiful little guys you could think of. They are amazing animals and this depicts the life cycle of them and the way they live facing brutally cold conditions, attacks by seals, and the heartbreak they suffer (like humans) when chicks die or are taken from them. This is brilliant and unlike any other documentary I've seen. It captivated me from start to end and it's a must see. Listening to Morgan Freemans soothing voice is so pleasant and he was easily the best choice to narrate this. Go see this. I highly, highly recommend it.
Excellent cinematography, nice story/narration.
This movie follows the emperor penguins through a mating season, showing the hardships they deal with and the techniques they use to survive these challenges.
They obviously went out of their way to make it suitable for all, avoiding lingering on anything that might disturb children - we brought children ages 1, 3, 5, 7, and 8, and none were upset by anything. For example, they show a predator bird chasing baby penguins, and all get away except one, and they cut away after it is caught but before it is killed. There is also a short scene of a seal swimming around looking for a penguin, and later you see it in the distance with a penguin in its mouth.
I'm definitely opposed to exposing children to anything inappropriate (which is almost every movie these days), but personally think the little exposure here can only be healthy rather than harmful. If a child is old enough to understand a penguin got eaten, I think they are old enough to learn that yes, animals are sometimes supposed to eat other animals. This is about as gentle an introduction to that that I can imagine.
Most of the scenes are penguins interacting with each other, nurturing the little ones, huddling together, etc.
It is light on narration - not a lot of detail/depth. The director lets the penguins do their thing for the camera. The soundtrack was well done, complementing the movie rather than overpowering or dominating it. In fact, I hardly noticed it most of the time I was so busy watching the scenery.
I also appreciated that they didn't put in a lot of far-fetched speculation or philosophical heavy-handedness such as many nature films do by trying to insist that everything is explained by evolution, or using every opportunity to attack mankind as evil. This film did neither - it just stuck to the story, informing rather than imposing on the viewer.
It was also fairly short (about 1:30 or so) so is great for even the littlest ones.
I really enjoyed this high-quality film about the lifecycle of the emperor penguin. However, I believe this summer's advertising campaign was somewhat intentionally misleading. The cute pictures and even cuter lullaby-like music accompanying the TV ads would lead you to believe that you would be safe taking a kindergartener to this film. Since the film accurately and starkly portrays the deaths that befall these creatures, I can't say that viewing by extremely young children is such a good idea. Instead, the level of violence on this film, although realistic and therefore not excessive, is more along the lines of what you would see on "When Dinosaurs Roamed the Earth" on the Discovery Channel. Thus, probably anyone over the age of 10 can take the death of these creatures in context and enjoy the film. That being said, it is great to see Hollywood put out such a high quality film and I agree with all of the other reviewers that Morgan Freeman did a five star job of narrating the movie. I hope that the movie's success motivates the motion picture industry to produce more intelligent films like this one that depict the animal life around us and understand that audiences are capable of appreciating and understanding films that do not involve car chases, explosions, bad remakes of 60's sitcoms, and lifesize robots whose limbs come with machine-gun attachments.
on December 12, 2005
I have read most of the reviews here and agree with them, and I don't want to be repetitive by commenting on what's already been said. However, while I highly recommend this film, I don't suggest it as a Christmas present for a small child. My 4 year old daughter quickly lost interest, as did all of my friends' young kids. It's a very sweet movie, but it's set up like a National Geographic documentary. The narrative is well done, but his voice is so soothing that it could lull you to sleep. I think it would be a great family gift, and would probably be a hit with the adults and older kids, but not as a gift for a small child.
on March 2, 2008
No offence to the Oscar winning documentary. I love the story but it was not shot in HD and they didn't even try to covert it. The picture quality is about the same as the regular DVD upconvert at its best. Huge disappointment!
on November 21, 2005
What I love about nature documentaries, and "March of the Penguins" does so well, is that it gives us humans a glimpse into the divine order of things and the nature of life itself. Tracing the story of a colony of emperor penguins for one breeding season only, the movie touches upon profound struggle to leave progeny for the next generation that recurs year after year for these animals. I'm not sure, but I have not seen a documentary of these penguins during the dead of winter during a brutal blizzard. That alone was awe inspiring. A touching and profound movie on many levels, asethically and spiritually. Well done.
on October 11, 2005
This was truly a beautiful movie, I laughed and cried throughout this documentary. At times the penguins were so human in their care for eachother and their child. Parents need to be aware that this movie may be too intense for some children. There are quite a number of times where death occurred. I saw this movie at the theater, there was a little boy of about 7 sitting behind our group. He cried and told his mom there were too many dying penguins. The family eventually had to leave as the movie caused too much grief.
"March of the Penguins" documents the lives of emperor penguins over the course of 9 months of Antarctic winter, as the birds take to land to find mates and raise chicks before returning to their comparatively leisurely life at sea for the summer. French filmmaker Luc Jacquet created this tale of life on the "darkest, driest, windiest, and coldest continent on Earth" with film shot by cinematographers Jérôme Maison and Laurent Chalet, who spent a winter with the penguins. I've seen a lot of excellent still photography of penguins, but "March of the Penguins" is the most spectacular and intimate cinematography of these birds that I've ever seen. The film is narrated by actor Morgan Freeman. This narration replaces the original French narration of the film, in which the penguins told their own story, voiced by human actors, if you can believe it. Well, a lot of people didn't believe it, so a new, more objective, narration was written for some international markets. There is a little romanticizing and dramatizing in this commentary, but it's good-natured and easy to spot.
Rotund sea birds waddling about on land can have comic consequences, and there are some laugh out loud moments in "March of the Penguins". But this film is generally dramatic, highlighting the great hardships that the penguins endure to reproduce under extraordinarily harsh conditions. The photography of Antarctica's landscape is spectacular in itself, and funny-looking birds waddling stoically across the bleak, icy terrain is quite a sight. Once the penguins traverse 70 miles to reach their breeding ground, where the ice is thick, we watch their quest for a suitable mate, egg-laying, and child-rearing, as starving parents must trek back to the sea to feed and return to feed their offspring and relieve their mates. The sight of the penguins huddled together in frigid temperatures and blizzard conditions as the Southern Lights dance across the perpetual night sky is downright eerie. Of course, there is lot of footage of irresistibly adorable baby penguins too, who play and bicker and suffer the harsh realities of Antarctic winter. "March of the Penguins" is a pleasure to watch. It's a wonder to see these remarkable birds up close.
The DVD (Warner Brothers 2005): Bonus features include 2 documentaries, one cartoon, and a theatrical trailer (2 min). "Of Penguins and Men" (53 min) is a making-of documentary narrated, in English, by cinematographer Jérôme Maison. Maison follows both the story of the penguins and that of himself and fellow cinematographer Laurent Chalet, as they spend a sometimes perilous 9 months of winter filming the penguins. It includes some information about the penguins that was not in the feature film. "National Geographic's Critter Cam: Emperor Penguins" (23 min) is a television show featuring the "critter cam", for which a camera is attached to a critter, in this case an emperor penguin in order to learn how it feeds underneath the pack ice. It follows 2 researchers who are studying the impact of climate change, specifically the enormous iceberg B15, on the lives of emperor penguins. "8 Ball Bunny" (7 min) is a Bugs Bunny cartoon that features a penguin. After a little lost penguin falls into his rabbit hole, Bugs promises to escort the little fellow home -before he realizes that penguins are from the South Pole. Subtitles for the film are available in English, Spanish, and French. Dubbing is available in Spanish.
on December 17, 2005
First, please let me vent about all the negative comments that have been posted here. Folks, you are either spoiled by mindless TV entertainment or just plain blind not to realize the truthfulness, educational and moral value of the "March of the Penguins"! To the ones who wanted to see "all those little cute penguins", you are better off spending your money here: (...) As for the viewers who were appalled by "violence, death and gloom", I just would like to remind that this movie first and foremost is a DOCUMENTARY, and all documentaries strive to portray the reality as it is - naked and truthful - applying, of course, a certain artistic touch. And the truth is that these penguins do die, stay hungry for month, freeze, and suffer, while pursuing the most fulfilling reward of their existence - bringing up a new life. I don't want to start a sermon here, but I hope I don't need to remind you that life IS often painful and tough, full of its challenges, hardships and sacrifices. Every one of use is hopelessly lost unless we find that ultimate prize that would make it "all worth it". And for many people this ultimate prize is not glory, fame or fortune, but simply finding a true love, bringing up a new life, and working on a lifelong family happiness together. Is this only me, but it seems that the number of these people is growing smaller and smaller with every year? Which brings me to my main thesis: we, humans, have a lot to learn from these penguins!
I understand that for some children a few moments of this movie may seem extremely sad and unfair, but that's where good parenting should step in, and explain how the real world works! And don't be ashamed at the end to rejoice together with victorious birds and celebrate the triumph of love and life! One of the images that I will always remember is the portrait of the penguin mother, father and their child, both of the parents with curved necks gently touching each other, and an innocent chick between them chirping and flapping its small wings. After seeing what they all had gone through, this moment was simply immortal in its beauty!
So, if this movie doesn't inspire you and your kids to become better persons, appreciate the relative comfort of your existence, and pursue more meaningful goals in your lives, then perhaps you need to check for any "irreparable harms to the psyche" that had already occurred in your past.
Oh, just FYI, I am in my mid 20s, married, agnostic and no, didn't have too much to drink tonight. March on!