|Written by Mel Odom|
|Tuesday, 05 April 2005|
In marketing, placement is everything. So it's no surprise that "Sacred Planet" was released on DVD during the week that held Earth Day. RobertRedford, an internationally recognized celebrity, wields dual roles as Hollywood box office star and heavy hitter for the pro-environment sector. The film is only 47 minutes in length, just about right for an hour-long television special.
The main thrust of the production is to win us over to a more planet-friendly lifestyle by exposing us to the beautiful scenery that spills across the screen. Originally shot for the IMAX crowd, "Sacred Planet" nevertheless delivers a double-fisted punch of video WOW! The camera skims through lush jungles, over snow-capped peaks and across heat-blasted deserts that shimmer and dance. Some of the footage is heartbreakingly beautiful and can move a view into breathless anticipation to see what comes next.
Chapter 1 opens up with an amazing view of a desert backed by a deep blue sky, then moves into a moss-covered jungle. Redford's voices drifts through the jungle, then into an African veldt as the credits continue to roll. Huge trees block out the sun later on. Clouds tear to wisps over a stark mountain range.
First and foremost, "Sacred Planet" slams the visual aspects of its subject matter home. Most of the first chapter runs the gamut of environments and stamps the main "save our planet" message firmly into our minds. Then the nature scenes segue into the busy urban life of people in the city amid lines of traffic.
In Chapter 2, the film experience shifts to California, Utah and Arizona. The towering redwood forest is amazing, a stand of giants that dwarf the Native American speaker at their base. From there, the visuals move into the deserts and across the Grand Canyon. The campsite storyteller is so atmospheric that we feel as though we can pull up a rock and have a seat. Embers blaze up into the air from the campfire. Shadows twist through the huge cave walls that have become worn by time, prehistoric ocean and wind.
After another urban sprawl scene, the movie visits Namibia, Africa, in Chapter 3. The landscape is immediately evocative as herds of giraffes and other animals run through it. Bushmen live in huts and depend on nature. The overhead shot of the bushmen moving through the tall yellow grass is striking. The nighttime visit to the village lights up the darkness.
Chapter 4 brings a trip to Thailand. The peaceful serenity of the water and trees comes across in the presentation. Some of the camerawork, like the overhead view of the orange-clothed monks going to prayer, begins to be repetitive, but the subject matter is so amazing that we won't mind and possibly won't even notice. The elephants, both real and statue, are stunning in their presentation.
Later on in Chapter 4, the underwater film sequences become poetry in motion. Schools of fish swim together and form geographic designs that have to be seen to be believed. The spiral knot of long fish looks like a dark sun in murky air. But the sea turtle steals the scene just a short time later. Other schools of fish explode into color like fireworks as they move in a burst of speed.
Chapter 5 whisks us away to Coastal British Columbia and southeast Alaska. Oars dip into water dappled golden orange by the setting sun. The whale dive plunges us down to the bottom of the sea to watch an octopus crawling across the bottom. Totems capture the sense of wonder and most viewers will be enthralled by the scampering grizzly bears fishing for salmon. The collection of seals along the coastline is fascinating, while the glaciers at rest in the sea look amazing.
In Chapter 6, the film crew moves to Borneo. The sounds of insects and birds fill the surround sound system. Later in the chapter, the cameras catch some hilarious high dives performed by a group of monkeys plunging from the treetops into the river. The fisherman throwing out his net is one of the most striking images on the disc.
The extras included on the DVD are really way too thin for an already short movie. Even the audio commentary by director Jon Long beats to death the point that "nature is good and should be preserved." The minimal special features seem to be more continuation of the main patter and imagery.
The IMAX crowd probably had a great experience with "Sacred Planet," but the DVD will probably only attract the diehard fans of nature films. Very little information about culture or place is involved in the presentation. Most audiences, including the younger ones, may find themselves more curious than satisfied by their viewing experience. The message comes across too heavy-handed, but the visual medium and range just can't be beat.