Today my family went and saw (drum role please) “March of the Penguins”! Yeah this is one I wanted to see. If you recall a media entry a while back I listed these movies:
“Batman Begins” - check
“March of the Penguins” - check
“Wallice and Gromit” - not out yet :(
“Narnia” - not out yet :(
add to this list “Serenity” which is... not out yet :(
So I am really kicking some cinematic booty with respect to seeing movies I want.
“March” is a great film. It is part Disney Docu-entertainment (yuck) part documentary (yeah). It is not a very informative documentary. There are only maybe 4 figures thrown at you (the penguins have marched X miles, it Y degrees below, rinse repeat), so don't go to “March” expecting to become a penguin expert. But what “March” does do is make you feel good and show you some absolutely amazing footage of penguins in their natural and inhospitable world. There are plenty of anthropomorphisms to go around, but certainly high order animals feel some emotions. “March” created an interesting debate in my mind between putting my emotions into the scene and what the penguins really "felt." How much do animals feel? It is foolish to say that animals feel nothing, and that they run purely on "instinct." In the context of an example, anyone that has had a dog knows dogs learn and feel emotions. It is instinct for a dog to put its tail between its legs when it violates the social norms of its pack, that is to say, when the dog is ashamed. But, it is a learned behavior of a dog that it should put its tail between its legs when it knocks over a lamp. Yet, anyone who has had a dog also knows it is a little too easy to assume that dogs feel just like humans with our complicated range of emotions, when they probably do not. “March” presented many scenes where I felt the urge to assume the penguin(s) felt just like I would, or I could “just tell” that penguin was sad “by the look in its eye.” It is probably true that a penguin feels sad when it looses a chick, but how deep is that sadness how similar is it to my “sadness”? Where is the line? “March” had me deeply questioning that question. Did I see sorrow in the penguin’s eye, or was it that being a social animal, and being someone that has a deep respect for animals, I search for similarities to help justify my beliefs that there is more going on there than there is? I don’t know. This is what I will be thinking about over the next few days.
But come on, the reason “March” is so great is it makes you feel good. “March of the Penguins” is a story about evolution working, about nature succeeding in surprising and inspiring ways. “March of the Penguins” will make you feel good, make you laugh, give you a respect for the diversity of life, the magic in the evolutionary machine, and make you think. You will not be walking out an expert on emperor penguins, but you will walk out with a smile on your face.