Anthropomorphic Widescreen

March of the Penguins

March of the Penguins, the surprise summer hit, is often awe-inspiring in its content and stunningly beautiful in its visuals, but it’s also a big fucking cheat. From the beginning, it anthropomorphizes the penguins, ascribing love and grief to creatures that simply do not feel emotions.

Even more damaging, the humanization of the animals is undercut by what they actually do. When one penguin is said to be devastated by the loss of its chick, it seems to recover amazingly quickly: It pauses ... and then walks away as if it had already forgotten. I’ve heard that time heals all wounds, but this is ridiculous.

Aside from crimes against science, March of the Penguins also commits sins against nature documentaries. When the end credits revealed that there were digital special effects, I was livid. Special effects? Isn’t the whole point of nature documentaries their reality, the assurance that what you see is only that which was captured by the cameras? There’s no digital work in nature documentaries!

All of these problems come from the same crass place: pandering to a wide audience. This is a movie begging and pleading to be seen by people who normally avoid the nature documentary. And a vast audience complied ... .

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