June 26, 2005

MOVIES: March of the Penguins (Luc Jacquet, 2005)

The mating ritual of the emperor penguin is an arduous process involving 70-mile hikes to the breeding ground, laying an egg in 80-below-zero temperatures which will kill the egg in seconds if it's not properly protected by the mother or the father, hikes back to the sea (and then back to the breeding ground again) for food, and (for the father) a stretch of over four months without any food at all.

March of the Penguins documents the process in remarkable fashion. It's beautifully photographed under horrific conditions, and it's a marvelously entertaining movie.

My only quarrel with the movie is that it's prone to anthropomorphize the penguins. The ad line on the posters reads, "In the harshest place on Earth, love finds a way." But what the penguins are doing has nothing to do with love or romance, and the process is quite fascinating enough on its terms that turning the penguins into happy little Disney critters is unnecessary. It's easy to understand the temptation -- the penguin chicks in particular seem genetically engineered for cuteness -- but it trivializes something that's quite remarkable as it is.

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