The Penguin King 3D Review
By Rich Cline on Friday 26th October 2012
Sharp digital photography makes this Antarctic documentary worth a look for nature-movie fans, even though it's both childish and unoriginal. The problem is that we have seen so many movies about penguins - from March of the Penguins to Happy Feet - that nothing here feels very new. Although at least the setting is unusual. And this one's shot in eye-popping 3D.
On the island of South Georgia, between Antarctica and South America, a massive colony of king penguins shares the landscape with a variety of seals and birds, but no humans (except for documentary film crews, of course). The star of the movie is a 4-year-old male who has just completed his epic three-year swim-about and is now back to find a mate and settle down. Sure enough, he pairs up with a female and then together the couple cares for its offspring as an egg and then a chick. They also take turns heading out to sea for food. And all the while, both of them are fighting off ruthless predators who want to make a meal of them.
Attenborough's narration is clearly aimed at very young children, as it creates an emotive story out of the natural images, which have been edited together to crank up the suspense. He turns the natural order of things into a full-on action movie, with evil killer whales and murderous birds villainously stalking the adorable young chicks. Never mind that this is how the world works: we are pushed to feel that it's unfair and tragic. And our emotions are further manipulated by a surging, cheesy score.
There are moments of romance and levity along the way, such as a visit to a nearby macaroni penguin colony, and the strained efforts to add human feelings is annoyingly contrived. Also, instead of finding a lesser-known species that might teach us something, the filmmakers merely rehash the human physicality of these sea-going birds (namely that they stand up straight). That said, the camera crew should be commended for its astonishingly beautiful work: the crisp images reveal South Georgia as a breathtaking location with rocky beaches, grassy hills and soaring mountain peaks while getting up close and personal with the penguins and other animals both on the land and underwater.