Growing up, I loved Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom. My fondest memories of my father are of us sitting together, watching animals tearing another creature apart. You won't find that in Earth, the new nature documentary. I figure this was to get a large family audience. Overall, this was a smart choice that doesn't diminish the impact of the film.
Earth is the chronicle of a year on, as the distinctive voice of James Earl Jones says, the only planet known capable of supporting life. This is due, we're told, to the precise location and tilt of Earth. We start in the Artic, and a family of polar bears. The crowd instantly cried "Ah" when the cubs popped out of their shelter. Their lives will be hard, we're warned, because of the warming of the planet. This is something we're told often, which is important to remember as we continue to watch the glories and beauty of our planet.
From there, we leisurely travel south, visiting the woodland and rainforest, which provides a fantastic montage of a variety of Birds of Paradise. We see a humpback whale and her cub as the travel the oceans to the Antarctic, where we encounter penguins (I wonder if they're the same ones from March of the Penguins) and a herd of elephants in the Kalahari in Africa.
This film doesn't shrink from suggesting nature can be deadly, but it isn't graphic; that is a plus since the majority of the audience was children. If they're smart, they'll understand sometimes, through no fault of our own (or the animals), death is part of life.
For me, someone who has always loved nature, it's like seeing Heaven. My favorite part was when a flock of demoiselle cranes fly over the Himalayas. I have a special fondness for birds (though I didn't "ah" when I saw the ducks learning to fly), but I thought that scene was particularly sublime.
It is amazing to think about how much life there is here. This is something we don't think much on, which is a detriment. Ultimately, while Man can be a destructive force in nature, we can also be the greatest benefit to it. We exterminated the great auk, but we saved the buffalo and are working to save the animals in the film. In that, we take comfort.