Who would’ve guessed that one of the hottest summer movies takes place in Antarctica and stars penguins? Well it does, on both counts, and it’s called “March Of The Penguins.”
Produced in cooperation with Warner Independent Pictures, National Geographic & the French Polar Institute (IPEV), director Luc Jacquet and his crew spent a year in one of the harshest climates on earth to create this documentary about the breeding cycle of the emperor penguin. Narrator Morgan Freeman describes this as a “love story,” but it’s really so much more.
The film follows the male & female emperor penguins on their 70-mile journey to ancient breeding grounds. Since they mate only once a year, the males must first find a female. Without sounding too anthropomorphic, the tenderness courting, copulating couples display is quite endearing. The goal is for a female to create a single egg, which must be delicately transferred to her mate so she can make the 70-mile trek back to the ocean to feed and to gather food for her newborn chick. The males are left to huddle together to protect their offspring through subzero (80 below) temperatures & storms which create 100-mile-per-hour winds. For several months the starving males’ only goal is to incubate their frail chick while awaiting the return of the females, who will trudge back to the breeding ground, feed their hungry newborn chicks & relieve the males, so they can return to the sea and feed themselves. There are poignant moments of grief as some eggs and chicks inevitably freeze from exposure to the bitter cold, and the penguin parents’ cries are painful to hear. But there are also tender reunions and gentleness, as the parents waddle round carrying the adorable chicks between a flap of belly skin and their claws.
This wonderful film truly shows survival of the fittest and will appeal to a multitude of moviegoers, from 3 year olds to your 83 year-old Aunt Edna. As we’re left with images of fat, molting chicks taking their first dip into the sea (which will be their home for 5 years until they’re mature enough to mate), there’s a keen awareness that nature’s eternal instinctual urge to survive & procreate is playing itself out with these majestic creatures of the ice and sea.