This week's entry in Anthropomorphism Theatre, March of the Penguins, has such sensuous and rich wildlife cinematography that I suspected CHEATING BY COMPUTERS more than once (and I dunno, did they?). The quality and depth of the image was so involving and affecting to me that I often tuned out Morgan Freeman's narration, preferring the thick solid ground of the penguin imagery. The narration's not bad, often providing just enough context for the narrative of the film to come through and it's certainly lighter on the arty poeticisms of the narration in many similiarly anthropomorphic IMAX films. But my feeling with this film, as it is with many films of this type, is that movies like this should provide a simple contextual narration at the beginning, telling us what we will be seeing, and then let the images and the animals tell their own damn story. But I'm quibbling. This is, really, a nice, simple film that works well due to the imagery found within.
I like animals, I like evolution, and I'm tickled beyond belief that this film was touted as supporting "intelligent design" by some Christian folk. Check out this quote, pulled from this article.
"To think that natural selection or even the penguins themselves could come up with the idea to migrate miles and miles multiple times each year without their partner or their offspring is a bit insulting to my intellect. How great is our God!"
I'm not interested in setting up a Creationist strawman here with my layman's knowledge of religion, evolution, and/or science, but this CRACKS ME UP! It's a weird understanding of evolution, positing that evolution would somehow give the penguins the intellectual property rights on their wasteful, trecherous, and idiotic reproductive needs. Further, the idea that there's a guiding hand behind the numerous deaths of penguins, as they scramble their young eggs (God, the abortion doctor!), freeze to death, or starve, featured in this film doesn't say much for this guiding hand's intelligence. Unless, I guess, the Penguins who die deserved it for some reason (they probably ate the sacred krill). It's absolute nonsense. But whatever.
But two can play at this game. Watch: The real story here is quite the opposite from the attempt of the religious right to co-opt these penguins. What's really important here is the way this film depicts quite plainly the lack of any specifically defined gender roles in God's creatures. Sure, we all know that seahorse males carry the eggs before they hatch, but emperor penguins? The most masculine of aquatic, flightless birds? Are stuck starving themselves taking care of a stupid egg while their women go off in search of food to bring home for the hungry brood? And not only that, but once the women actually get back (and some of them don't... never send a girl to do a man's job, are you with me fellas?) then they get to take care of the baby for its youth, even after the baby penguin has sucked out the last of the male's food reserves after hatching. That's some gratitutde, huh? Who knew that penguins could be so genderbending? The actions of these penguins prove that the established gender roles humans have built up over centuries are completely bogus, naturally speaking. There's some sound reasoning for ya. Blugh.
The only problem I have with this movie is that it seems a bit too packaged (and particularly for the "super-mom" set) with, at times, a very human narrative forced onto non human creatures. Nevertheless, it seems to be, at least, basically accurate with a minimal amount of cheap editing tricks to make the animals conform to the structure the film wants to have. A bonus for me: I love Antarctic imagery and this movie's got some of the best I've seen.