March of the Penguins

January 28, 2012 6 Min Read

Review by: Matt Brighton

Plot: What’s it about?

When I think of penguins, I think of Mario Lemieux. Sorry, maybe it’s the hockey player inside me but little did I know that there’s much going on to these flightless birds than meets the eye. “March of the Penguins” is a documentary that was a surprising success at the box office last year. Why, I don’t know. As I said, it’s a documentary and one thing this genre of film does is open ones eyes with narrative facts and dictation. I mean, as fascinating as this was, I can easily see watching a documentary on monkeys or snakes just as intriguing. That said, I do take it for granted for being at the top of the food chain. Never in a million years would I go trussing across 70 miles of sub zero temperatures to “find a mate”. Then again I’m sure men have done much more desperate things in search of…well, other things.

“March of the Penguins” is narrated by perhaps the one person who’s best at narrating: Morgan Freeman. In short, this covers a year in the life of the Emperor Penguin, following their mating ritual from (literally) conception to completion. The process is centuries old and begins when they emerge from the Artic Ocean. They then walk, single file, over 70 miles to a pre-destined meeting place using only their instinct. They then find a mate and take care of the egg. After a few months, the females head back to the ocean where they stock up on food only to return so that the males can then go back for food. This process takes a few months and only the warming of the weather makes it easier for them to feed. Life’s tough as a penguin and certainly makes living in North America look like paradise. No matter what your stance on documentaries, “March of the Penguins” is a fascinating look at the life of the Emperor Penguin.

Video: How does it look?

“March of the Penguins” is presented in a 1.78:1 anamorphic transfer. I wasn’t expecting a whole lot here due to the nature of the film. I mean they were in Antarctica where the average temperature is -58 degrees year around; so it’s likely to assume they didn’t have film crews out there with all of the latest equipment. That said, the transfer is grainy at times, with some of the nighttime shots being even more so. I found no evidence or edge enhancement and I do have to admit that, not knowing much about penguins, I always thought their appearance to be somewhat rubbery – this is clearly not the case. For a documentary, this is a pretty good transfer but compared to most newer “movies” on DVD out there, it’s a far cry from being perfect.

Audio: How does it sound?

The Dolby Digital soundtrack serves as only a backdrop to what’s really going on. As with most documentaries, sound really isn’t an issue – it’s the material that matters. There’s some general ambiance provided in the surround channels and Morgan Freeman’s powerful narration exudes from the center channel, but that’s about it. We hear the penguins from time to time during their mating ritual and I’m not sure how good it’s supposed to sound, but we do hear them. Again, like the video quality this is about average. Then again we are watching penguins here, how much sound do you need?

Supplements: What are the extras?

There aren’t a whole lot of supplements on this disc, mainly a featurette from National Geographic “Crittercam: Emperor Penguins – Penguin Diving and Feeding”. This is a more light-hearted look at the life of a penguin from National Geographic’s point of view. I don’t watch the network that much, but you assume if they have something called “Crittercam” that they look at more animals than penguins. There’s somewhat of a “Making of…” included on the disc as well with “Of Penguins and Men” in which they show how the movie was made, the location and of course the harsh living conditions. There’s a classic Bugs Bunny episode featuring a penguin called “8 Ball Bunny” along with the theatrical trailer. “March of the Penguins” is certainly informative and an interesting look at one of the animal kingdom’s most intriguing processes. For those interested, it’s a solid recommendation.

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