March of the Penguins starts out as well as any documentary can. Alternating between beautiful and informative this film gets you pretty geeked up to learn all about Emperor Penguins, which is no small feat. Somewhere along the line it loses a little steam, perhaps simply due to the composition of the film itself, but it never really collapses (unlike some of the poor penguins).
Morgan Freeman narrates this opus to penguins and he does a wonderful job when called upon. As with every documentary it is a fine line between using the narration too much, with the opposite tactic being to let the film dissolve into a type of penguin slideshow. The film errs more on the side on not using Freeman enough, and sometimes the audience is left waiting for him to come back on and explain what exactly we’re seeing.
If you’ve seen a penguin walk before you’ll grasp the awesome undertaking that a seventy-mile jaunt is for them. That’s the crux of this tale. For me, this was when March of the Penguins was at its very best, haunting pictures of a long line of penguins marching across the ice in the frozen wasteland that is Antarctica. The film was wise to simply sit back, relax, and visually say “will you take a look at this?” Once you do it’s hard to ignore the classic beauty of the spectacle.
Specific criticism of March of the Penguins for me would include a few details that are left out of the exposition. Some questions don’t get answered that it seems like the film is asking. Additionally many different shots of inherently the same thing, such as a mother sitting on her egg, occasionally bog down the film. It’s a neat shot the first time, but by the fifth our eyes are ready for some new detail to emerge.
Other than that it’s hard to fault much with this effort. The director (Jaquet) spent thirteen months getting this footage and his effort has paid off. My knowledge of penguins increased tenfold, and my admiration for the plucky little animal grew substantially. Visually arresting and extremely informative, I’m not sure a better nature film will come down the pike this year. It’s worth watching.