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Reviews
STAR RATINGS EXPLAINED
Unmissable 5 Stars
Excellent 4 Stars
Good 3 Stars
Poor 2 Stars
Tragic 1 Star

POSTER ART
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FILM DETAILS
Certificate
U
Cast
Morgan Freeman.
Directors
Luc Jacquet.
Screenwriters
Luc Jacquet
Jordan Roberts.
Running Time
80 minutes

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March Of The Penguins
Not a mass protest of nuns...


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Plot
Shot over 13 months in Antarctica, this nature documentary follows the efforts of a colony of Emperor penguins to reproduce during the coldest months of the year, and despite the dangers posed by the weather and the predatory seals and petrels that prey on the birds and their chicks.


Review
March Of The Penguins

In the US, March Of The Penguins has been hailed as a box-office triumph, the first nature film to succeed as mainstream entertainment. But like Fahrenheit 9/11, the only higher-grossing documentary in history, this isn’t a documentary in the traditional sense, boasting a stronger story than many features. In an amazing account of life against the odds, thousands of penguins make the trek inland from their summer feeding-grounds to mate (largely off-screen — this is a U, after all) and lay their eggs. This epic quest for survival — eat your heart out, Lord Of The Rings — takes place amid the harshest weather on Earth, and it happens every year.

Sadly, apparently lacking confidence in the strength of their icy images and waddling stars, the filmmakers feel the need to use Morgan Freeman’s voiceover to emphasise what devoted families these penguins make. This despite the fact that they mate for only a season at a time, that the chicks may never see their parents again once weaned, and that — hello! — they’ve got bird brains.

All too often, intriguing little details are ignored as the film struggles to anthropomorphise its stars. This sort of sloppy thinking makes March an occasionally frustrating experience for those brought up on Attenborough documentaries, which always successfully combined entertainment and scientific rigour. At least we can be grateful that the original French version, which dubbed the penguins with voices of their own, won’t make it to this country.

That’s not to say that the movie is totally uninformative, nor that anyone should be concerned that it’s been adopted by creationists thrilled that it doesn’t discuss evolution. But given that director Luc Jacquet and his crew spent more than a year shooting every aspect of these birds’ lives, producing some of the most beautiful images of the Antarctic ever committed to celluloid, while using special cameras to capture underwater images (a little grainy compared to the rest of the movie, but when you’re in a drysuit in sub-zero temperatures, that’s probably the least of your worries), you wish they’d spent a little time feeding us some information to accompany the pictures. As it is, this docu-drama sometimes feels sanitised and toothless.


Verdict
It’s a missed opportunity to make a great documentary, but still decent family entertainment, with awe-inspiring Antarctic scenery and some very cute stars.


Reviewed by Helen O'Hara


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Your Reviews

Average user rating for March Of The Penguins
Empire Star Rating

March of The Penguins

Beautiful scenery. Repetitive, sentimental narration. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by qualidad at 17:59, 10 July 2007 | Report This Post


It’s a little coy and cosy in the way it deals with the more brutal aspects of the natural order But, March Of The Penguins is a moving and tender celebration of ritual and romance. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by moviemaniac2 at 17:34, 10 March 2007 | Report This Post


absolute masterpiece. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by iveywebb44 at 00:44, 08 September 2006 | Report This Post


March of The Penguins.

SPOILER WARNING! Yes this documentry isn`t perfect. The narration of Morgan Freeman is sometimes over sentimental. However this isn`t just any old penguin documentry. It features some of the most amazing footage of avaian behaviour anywhere. You see them endure unbeleivable suffering and endurence to mate and be with their partners and chicks. The most heartbreaking and amazing scene for me was witnessing the cries when some of their young freeze to death in a blizzard and the same birds then... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Cruisecontroller at 23:08, 15 May 2006 | Report This Post


March of The Penguins.

SPOILER WARNING! Yes this documentry isn`t perfect. The narration of Morgan Freeman is sometimes over sentimental. However this isn`t just any old penguin documentry. It features some of the most amazing footage of avaian behaviour anywhere. You see them endure unbeleivable suffering and endurence to mate and be with their partners and chicks. The most heartbreaking and amazing scene for me was witnessing the cries when some of their young freeze to death in a blizzard and the same birds then... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Cruisecontroller at 23:07, 15 May 2006 | Report This Post


RE: March of the Penguins

One of the best documentaries I've ever seen. I thoroughly enjoyed it. It's an excellent documentary with breath-taking moments, amazing views and wonderful chicks. I hugely recommend it. This documentary film starts off with delightful shots and strokes your soul from the very first moment. The brilliance in shooting, filming story-telling never makes you feel bored. This film is so spectacular that makes you laugh, smile and even makes you feel sad at times. To my surprise,(I had not kn... More

Posted by m_er at 03:14, 13 March 2006 | Report This Post


RE: March of the Penguins

enjoyable and gorgeous to look at, regret not getting to see it in the cinema, but at the same time i think it was too long and i think it could have been more informative, not a whole lot really happens in it, but definatly pleasent to watch as the penguins are quite good fun. just at making it the length it is, there could have been more depth maybe? 3/5 ... More

Posted by boot at 21:09, 12 March 2006 | Report This Post


RE: March of the Penguins

Morgan Freemans narration is both a strength and weakness in this, didn't really like the way they humanised the penguins, felt too much like telling us what to think. The penguins are hilarious comedy value though, what a strange evolutionary solution. You really feel like their species is on the brink of disaster at all times in such harsh conditions ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Mycroft at 18:16, 12 March 2006 | Report This Post


March of the Penguins

This simple film warmed the cockles of even my stoney cynical heart.  Okay so it doesn't delve in to the why's and wherefores to any great extent but it really doesn't need to.  In 80 minutes we are allowed to explore the whole world of these funny little creatures.  March of the penguins is a glimpse in to life on what is climatically the harshest place to live in the world, where like in every other walk of life, it is survival of the fittest.  I would heart... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Shawlord at 18:02, 12 March 2006 | Report This Post


RE: Lovely poster, average documentary

Not bad, glad I saw it at the cinema. ... More

Posted by lord of the pies at 18:58, 24 January 2006 | Report This Post


Lovely poster, average documentary

Fascinating but hardly worthy of a big screen release. The poster is more effective than the film. David Attenborough can do better than this! ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Gold Digger at 14:24, 24 January 2006 | Report This Post


RE: one note tedium

L: forbidden_planet I really enjoyed this. It was beautiful to watch and quite informative, not overly, which would make it boring but enough to keep the documentary at a good pace. I had no idea these penguins did the march and its truely amazing to watch. Having Freeman narrate just gave more essence to the doc I felt. 5/5 e one,going to watch this tonight. ... More

Posted by Peter Griffin at 15:25, 11 January 2006 | Report This Post


RE: one note tedium

I really enjoyed this. It was beautiful to watch and quite informative, not overly, which would make it boring but enough to keep the documentary at a good pace. I had no idea these penguins did the march and its truely amazing to watch. Having Freeman narrate just gave more essence to the doc I felt. 5/5 ... More

Posted by forbidden_planet at 11:15, 10 January 2006 | Report This Post


RE: one note tedium

entary about the lives of emperor penguins is not something, which sounds like it belongs on the cinema screen, surely it’s been done a hundred times on many different nature channels, however, against all odds the film works superbly. What makes it work on the big screen is that it’s truly does look cinematic, the cinematography is gorgeous, although that’s perhaps understandable as the scenery is stunning. However certain shots, such as the long pan of the entire group of penguins, shows just... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Dave B at 15:18, 08 January 2006 | Report This Post


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