Venturing into the wilds of China, "Born in China" captures intimate moments with a panda and her growing cub, a young golden monkey who feels displaced by his baby sister, and a mother snow leopard struggling to raise her two cubs.
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Narrated by John Krasinski ("13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi," NBC's "The Office," "Amazon's "Jack Ryan"), Disneynature's new True Life Adventure film "Born In China" takes an epic journey into the wilds of China where few people have ever ventured. Following the stories of three animal families, the film transports audiences to some of the most extreme environments on Earth to witness some of the most intimate moments ever captured in a nature film. A doting panda mother guides her growing baby as she begins to explore and seek independence. A two-year-old golden snub-nosed monkey who feels displaced by his new baby sister joins up with a group of free-spirited outcasts. And a mother snow leopard-an elusive animal rarely caught on camera-faces the very real drama of raising her two cubs in one of the harshest and most unforgiving environments on the planet. Featuring stunning, never-before-seen imagery, the film navigates China's vast terrain-from the frigid mountains to ... Written by
Nice Footage, Probably Good for Children But for Adults...Disney isn't BBC Quality
Born in China was a mixed bag - some spectacular footage only partially spoiled by the editing and narration Disney imposed upon it. This has a very different tone than your usual David Attenborough BBC Nature Documentary (such as Planet Earth), adopting anthropomorphizing storytelling of the characters (I initially hesitated to use the word characters to describe animals, but such was the extent of Disney's approach that it is, unfortunately, fitting here) instead of the objective, informative narration you might be expecting. I think it's likely well-suited for children, but if you're a nature documentary loving adult without children, my advice would be to pass. I'm still giving it a 6/10 for the quality of the footage itself and what I'm estimating is a decent film for its target audience, very young children.
The good: The footage itself was wonderful. The team captured some beautiful and fascinating nature scenes. The detail into which the film delved into the social life of the monkeys was interesting and new. There were lots of baby animal scenes and who doesn't love baby animals?! John Krasinski of "The Office" fame was, in my opinion, an excellent narrator *for the material given to him*. Because Disney chose a more playful, childish tone in the narration, I think an actor's touch was needed, and John Krasinski handled the material well. I just didn't care for the material (ok sorry that was a good and a bad, but it's hard to praise the narration without acknowledging the terrible writing!).
And onto...the bad: * The writing itself. While John Krasinski performed the playful tone well, I disagree with the choice for the writers to use that tone to begin with (or at the very least, if I'm to temper my criticism I'll say it's not well-suited to adults). This film was not highly informative, and most of the narration felt like it was projecting human emotions onto the animal "characters", which I found very irritating.
* Predator subjects but no successful hunting footage. With a significant portion of the film covering snow leopards, one of nature's most capable and majestic hunters, one would hope for some spectacular hunting footage! Disney omitted it, presumably as a concession to their target audience. Another thing that's not *necessarily* worse if you concede that the movie is strictly for young children, but in my opinion makes it worse for anyone *but* that small audience.
* "Dishonest" editing. I strongly suspect the filmmakers fixed a LOT in post to fit the narrative they wanted to tell, and make things "more interesting." You would think after Disney's history of this (Google "Disney Lemmings" for more, and prepare to be shocked if you don't know the story!) they would be extra vigilant to be honest in their depictions, but Born in China appeared to cheat a LOT. For example, there's a scene with the Baby Panda climbing, and the footage would cut back and forth between face shots of the baby panda and a "nearby" red panda, who they imply with the juxtaposition of shots is watching the whole ordeal. But an establishing shot with the baby panda and the red panda is never shown, and the implied perspective of the red panda remains static, even after the baby panda takes a tumble down a hill. For all we know (and I strongly suspect), the footage of the red panda was completely separate, but they chose to inject it into this scene to tell a more "interesting" story. This is just a minor example of manipulating the footage shot to support a slightly more compelling narrative, but I for one would prefer honesty. There are other examples as well, and you'll notice watching the film that the edits are more like that of a sitcom than a nature documentary - character focused rather than an objective account of the events. They try too hard to tell a story, and beyond the tone of the writing itself, it appeared that they spliced together disjointed footage to make it fit their narrative. This kind of "dishonesty" in portrayal upset me the most about the film, because it goes against what I feel a nature documentary should be.
6/10 is higher than my own enjoyment of the film (which I'd put more along the lines of 4/10, with Planet Earth being an easy 10/10), but I think for its target audience it's a bit better than my own experience so I'm giving it some benefit of doubt there, and again the footage itself was excellent. It probably deserves some real credit for that alone, as well as some adjustment for the context of its target audience.
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