I should first admit that I saw this film about a week after watching the "Ice Worlds" episode of the BBC's Planet Earth series, and perhaps that set the bar a fair measure higher than usual and contributed to my negative response to "The White Planet".
But never before have I experienced such disappointment with a nature documentary, and never before have I been able to pinpoint precisely what I didn't like about a film (of any genre).
Firstly: the actual photography. The film's promotional material implores you to see this film on "as big a screen as possible". If the footage was of the quality deserving cinematic projection, then I would agree. Unfortunately, it's not. From what I can gather, the film is a patchy collage of the work of "the world's greatest polar nature filmmakers" - and it shows. Some parts were better than others, but on the whole, the images were grainy, soft, and certainly not as impressive as one would expect from a genre which is fundamentally based on its photography.
Secondly: the editing. No attempt was made to edit narrative sequences together. It's as if they've just picked a whole bunch of shots, and crudely slapped them together with no sense of constructive order. The film jumps from animal to animal (without actually identifying what each is, but that's a narration gripe), without providing any context for the behaviour we are witnessing on screen and therefore rendering most shots fairly meaningless. Oh yes, there's an angry looking polar bear running across the ice - but what is it running from? Or running to? Why is it running at all? Never mind, here are some of those fluorescent jellyfish and other deep sea creatures.
Thirdly: the narration. To be fair, it was not so much a problem with the voice or presentation style of the narrator, as with the sporadic, shallow and sometimes pretentious script. The constant reference to polar bears as "Lords of the Ice Planet", Beluga whales as "Sea Canaries of the White Planet" (and their 'mysterious concert song still that still holds many secrets and mystery')... it all grew a bit tiresome. I also thought that one of the basic purposes of the narration in a film on the weird and wonderful creatures of the far corners of the globe would be to tell you what they are. Polar bears and seals are pretty obvious, but very little information was provided on exactly what other animals we were seeing on screen, or even exactly where we were seeing them (Canada? Alaska? Where???).
Finally: the sound track. It was god awful. Fair enough if they didn't have the money to invest in scoring a symphony orchestra to compliment the vision, but silence would have been better than the mismatched yodelling/chanting/drum beating/interpretive dance type tracks which in no way tied in with the vision on screen. It sounded like they picked a world music compilation CD out of the discount bin and randomly placed tracks along the timeline with complete disregard for the images they were accompanying. Also, I am convinced that they recorded the sound of a child licking a lollipop to use for any scene where a newborn animal (caribou, polar bear, anything) was being licked by its mother.
...maybe all a little harsh, and I really don't like to be so critical, but I have never been so sure of the reasons for my dislike of a film.
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