MARCH OF THE PENGUINS
Limited Edition Giftset
Review by Ed Nguyen
Morgan Freeman Anamorphic Widescreen 1.85:1
Director: Luc Jacquet
Audio: English and Spanish Dolby Digital Surround 5.1
Subtitles: English, French, Spanish
Studio: Warner Bros.
Features: See Review
Length: 80 minutes
Release Date: November 3, 2009
Anamorphic Widescreen 1.85:1
the -- ? It's a boy, a boy in a tuxedo!" - Bugs Bunny
of the Penguins
is a National Geographic release about...penguins, of course!
Specifically, this documentary examines the migration and mating patterns
of Aptenodytes forsteri, more commonly
known as the emperor penguin.
sixty-six pounds as an adult, the aptly-named emperor penguin is the largest of
all penguins. With a strange
predilection for one of the harshest climates on Earth, this aquatic bird seems
perfectly content to brave temperatures far, far below zero during a typical
mating season. March of the Penguins unfolds during one such mating season.
Starting in March and continuing until December of the same year, this
documentary looks not only at the trek the penguins must travel to reach their
secluded Antarctic breeding grounds but more significantly at the intense
conditions which they must endure into order to ensure the survival of their
journey inland to the breeding grounds may take up to seventy miles.
Yes, seventy miles.
In sub-zero weather. On
awkward little feet better suited for swimming than for walking on slippery ice.
When too tired to walk, the penguins simply flop upon their bellies and
toboggan themselves along. This is
a journey the penguins must repeat many times over during a season, not only to
feed themselves but also to gather food for the eventual hatchling chicks until
they are old enough to fend for themselves.
Such an epic test of endurance and parental instinct is surely
unsurpassed in the annals of the animal kingdom.
of the most awe-inspiring scenes opening this documentary is the arrival of row
upon row of emperor penguins reaching their breeding grounds.
The monumental sight of these magnificent birds amassing is simply
breathtaking, akin to the spectacle of the Klondike climbers at the start of The
Gold Rush or the mountain climbers of Aguirre,
the Wrath of God.
thousands will arrive, with the courtship rituals beginning soon thereafter.
When paired, emperor penguins remain faithful until the next mating
season, their entire focus becoming the preservation of their egg and the
miraculous life developing inside. The
egg itself is highly vulnerable to freezing, so it must be incubated and
insulated for two months by the father (during this time, the mother returns to
sea to feed). The arriving young
hatchlings are also easy prey for opportunistic predators, like giant petrels
which will descend upon any chick unfortunate enough to stray too far from a
mother penguin may be gone for up to two months. When she returns, she will be able to feed the newborn chick
while the father is allowed to end his own months-long starvation.
Of course, the famished male penguins must still navigate over miles of
sheer ice in sub-zero weather after a four-month fast.
Even upon reaching the sea edge, danger (in the guise of hungry leopard
seals) still awaits these starved emperor penguins.
Nevertheless, this cycle must repeat itself many times, with parents
alternating feeding trips and care for the chick.
penguins subsist on a diet of mostly crustaceans, small fish, krill, and
occasionally squid. They are superb
swimmers, frequently diving down to over 1700 feet to catch their prey.
An adult penguin is capable of holding its breath around fifteen minutes
on average. However, the chicks
will not take their first swim until they are around five months old and must
instead rely entirely upon the regurgitated contents of their parents' stomachs.
Should either parent perish at any time during these dangerous winter
months, then the chick is surely doomed to starvation.
One parent alone cannot provide enough nourishment from the sea for the
chick to grow and maintain its body heat against the unrelentingly intense
extreme hardness suffered by these enduring penguins simply begs the question -
when temperatures dropped to 80 degrees below with winds up to 100 miles an
hour, what was keeping the documentary filmmakers themselves alive?
Well, the filmmakers were able to rely upon a local research base for
shelter and food. Despite this,
they nearly perished anyways in a moment of carelessness (documented in Of
Penguins and Men), further emphasizing the fragility of life in the
Antarctic regions against the incredible prosperity of the emperor penguins.
their own pains and near-death experiences, the filmmakers were able to deliver
some truly spectacular footage. Any
National Geographic production can be counted upon for beautiful photography and
awe-inspiring landscapes, and March of the
Penguins is no exception. Like
2001's Winged Migration, which offered
wondrous images from all over the globe, March of the Penguins unveils the enduring majesty and beauty of
these birds, which thrive in some of the world's most remote and harsh climates.
Winged Migration encompassed many
species of birds, March of the Penguins
focuses primarily upon the natural habitats of the emperor penguin.
Narrated by Morgan Freeman and filled with many delightful and humorous
moments, March of the Penguins makes
an ideal family film. We see how these aquatic birds travel through thousands of
miles of ocean to mingle upon the unforgiving Antarctic sub-continent in
essentially a vast communal hug. Even
more fantastic is the underwater footage, otherworldly and absolutely
mesmerizing. The grace, agility,
and speed of these penguins underwater is startling, and the images captured
here literally rival anything Hollywood can conjure up via computer special
the best feature of all, however, is the simple sight of the penguin chicks
themselves. They are, in a word, adorable. Only the coldest, most worthless lump of humanity could fail
to be moved by these absolutely charming and cuddly baby penguins.
The camera sensibly lingers over them for many scenes, and rightly so.
After all, these penguin chicks are the entire reason why the emperor
penguins annually and voluntarily
suffer through such an epic struggle against the harshest trials of Mother
Nature. That these chicks can
survive such extreme conditions is a miracle in itself, and seeing the young
hatchlings emerge and mature into healthy and vibrant young emperor penguins is
the highlight of this documentary.
parental love knows no bounds. March
of the Penguins is magical and wondrous, a perfect viewing experience for
the entire family. Who knows, maybe
children and parents alike may learn something new while enjoying this
heart-warming tale about the bonds and sacrifices made by these parents that
their offspring might survive.
of the Penguins
is bright with sharp images, although the transfer has occasional mild
pixelation. Some graininess in the
darker sequences can be forgiven (keep in mind that Antarctica is shrouded in
darkness for much of the winter). Underwater
footage is also somewhat grainy but again acceptable, given the conditions and
especially considering that the camera equipment could even survive such frigid
conditions to capture any images!
bad the original French audio soundtrack is not included on this disc.
The documentary was narrated in French through the point of view of a
mother, father, and baby penguin! Purportedly,
the French audio was rather cheesy, but it still would have been interesting to
have for comparison with Morgan Freeman's English narration.
scripted comments are simplistic and sometimes too elementary, detracting from
the powerful images. Nevertheless,
they do impart some of the epic scope of the penguins' struggle against and
triumph over the elements. A
Spanish narration is also provided.
and storyline aside, the recorded sounds provide a very natural and sonically
rich ambiance to the film. We hear
the echoing cries of many penguins, the splintering groans of the ice floes, and
the shrieks of hungry and ever-vigilant petrels soaring on high.
This is as close as most people can get to experiencing this sort of
extreme world setting, aside from actually going to Antarctica.
of the Penguins
was a G-rated film with no violence or special effects, a family-friendly
documentary (of all things), and a total smash hit at the box office, where it
made a gazillion bucks. Hollywood
producers, are you paying attention? The
silent majority is trying to tell you something here.
for Happy Feet (a CG film about
penguins), The Polar Express, National
Geographic's Animal Holiday (a holiday sing-along), and Duma
(about a cheetah baby) open the DVD at start-up.
is Of Penguins and Men (54 min.), a
documentary about the making of March of
the Penguins. It recounts the
sheer madness and inspiration of two cinematographers, Laurent Chalet and Jérôme
Maison, as they brave the terrible polar winters to capture the breathtaking
images seen in March of the Penguins.
Narration in English is provided by Maison, who describes the travel to
the polar region and the thirteen-month stay at an Antarctic French research
lab, which served as the base of operations for the two cinematographers.
Even so, the two men narrowly escaped death at least once in a severe
Antarctic snowstorm, which puts the remarkable survival of the emperors penguins
themselves into greater perspective.
Geographic's Crittercam: Emperor Penguins (23 min.) makes use of the crittercam, a device that
is attached to animals' backs to allow researchers to track their movements
visually. While the camera has been
used with the likes of dolphins and whales, the emperor penguin is easily the
smallest marine critter to wear such a contraption. Watching the penguin
attempting to walk with an attached crittercam is a goofy riot, but once in the
water, the penguins are as agile as ever.
a fun note, the classic 1950 Merry Melodies cartoon 8 Ball Bunny, featuring Bugs Bunny, is included.
Naturally, there is a penguin involved.
In a nutshell, Bugs Bunny decides to help a lost little penguin make his
way back home, presumably the southern polar regions.
The cartoon's running joke is a poke at the Humphrey Bogart character
from The Treasure of the Sierra Madre, made only two years prior to this
cartoon (and therefore fresh on the minds of then-audiences).
The disc rounds out with a trailer.
The disc rounds out with a trailer.
This limited edition gift set also includes a second DVD, with the new documentary On the Wings of Penguins. If you only thought about ice and snow when you thought about penguins, you'll think again when you see this charming look at Africa's warm-weather penguins! The set also includes an adorable little plush penguin toy and 8 collectable postcards, all handsomely packaged in a nice box that's perfect for the holidays!