Friday, May 01, 2009

Animals: They're Just Like Us


I had the pleasure of seeing earth last week with two of my girls, and I loved it! Of course, halfway through the movie, Nicole leaned over to me and said, "This is amazing. Most of this footage was on the Discovery channel show 'Planet Earth.'" Damn! So I just paid $8 (I buy the children's tickets at the kiosk. Shh, don't tell) to see something that other folks saw for free?! Well, on the show they have Sigourney Weaver narrating while the movie featured James Earl Jones, but still.

This segment of the series (I believe it will be three parts; the next part is Ocean coming Earth Day 2010) focused on mommies and babies around the planet. There was a polar bear family, a herd of elephants and a humpback whale with her baby, along with some other interesting characters thrown in.

Even if you're not nature-y (I'm completely not), you'll appreciate the careful storytelling and magnificent score of the movie. I was glued to the screen, feeling nearly every emotion along with the on-screen families. I was heartbroken when a baby elephant lost his mother in a cloud of dessert sand. He managed to follow his mom's footprints and set off on a trail, only in the wrong direction. When the humpback and her calf literally crossed the world in search of delicious vittles, I was tense as they navigated treacherous waters and were forced to loudly flap their wings so that the other would know that they were present and safe. And the adorable polar bear cubs! Seeing their first, exciting adventure outside of the cave that they were born in, watch them learn to walk on the slippery snow and eventually leave mama bear's cave, was really really cute.

Something that I kept thinking is how fortunate we humans are to have hands. The elephant, the polar bear and the humpback could only will their babies to stay close to them, and were unable to scoop them up and carry them. My friend Latrice said that I was applying human emotions to animals, but I think that we're wrong to underestimate the complexity of non-human intellect and emotion. I'm certain that any mom, human or polar bear, wishes for more ways to keep their babies close and safe from danger.

I also couldn't help but make a couple of food chain comparisons. The elephants that were forced to make themselves vulnerable to hungry lions at the watering hole, the shark that came out of nowhere to take a bite out of some very large mammal. Even though there isn't another animal out there that naturally eats humans, people are pretty good at making themselves predatory. Credit card companies, mortgage lenders, slumlords and companies that feed on the poor (hey Wal-Mart!) all come to mind when I think of human predators.

earth is a freakishly enjoyable movie, full of brilliant images, haunting music and the gentle pride that is James Earl Jones' voice. Go see immediately!

-- Whitney


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