Sacred Planet Movie Review

It's pitiful to say it, but most Americans would rather blow a thousand dollars in Las Vegas than see the magnificence of coastal Alaska. Sacred Planet is a film to inspire us to leave the all-you-can-eat buffets, the shopping malls, and the dog tracks, and see the world's remaining wild places. It's a film designed to shake us from the urban jungles we've grown secure in and broaden our view, culturally as well as spiritually, through interaction with the splendor of nature. And it almost works.

There is, indelibly, a hint of New Age in Sacred Planet, the latest IMAX documentary film to be released to DVD. The producers play it up in the advertising, the tribal font of the title, the narration by Robert Redford, the world music score. Like Baraka and Koyaanisqatsi before it, Sacred Planet is a film designed to both transport us somewhere and teach us something. And the lesson is the same: we live in an interconnected world. However, unlike Baraka and Koyaanisqatsi, Sacred Planet demands very little from the audience.

We travel through remote and revered places in Sacred Planet - the American Southwest, Namibia, Thailand, Borneo, and the coast of Alaska. The emphasis here is on stunning vistas: the deep blue of the ocean against the dizzying white of an iceberg, the emerald green of the rainforest and the crimson sand of the desert, and wildlife: schools of silver fish, monkeys frolicking in a river, giraffes galloping across the savannah. It's hard not to swell with awe at images like these. At times the film becomes an abstraction of natural beauty. Were it not for the narration, "tribal voices" and shots of teeming city life to wrench us from the imagery, the film would be entirely hypnotic - a visual accompaniment to a Steve Roach album. Filmmaker Ron Fricke achieved that type of cinematic grandeur with Baraka. (It also helped having a significantly longer running time.)

But director Jon Long and producer/writer Karen Long add narration and sped-up shots of crazed city life a la Koyaanisqatsi. The images of raw nature weren't enough; there had to be some reinforcement. (This is a Disney film for American audiences after all.) And that's where Sacred Planet loses its power. We don't need narration; we don't need to hear the wisdom of the elder voices. The images themselves, wonderfully presenting the grandeur of nature, are a thousand times more inspiring and powerful.

In their quest for profundity the makers of Sacred Planet have neglected to let their star, the planet, do the talking.

DVD extras include commentary track, featurette, and a music video.


Sacred Planet Rating

" OK "

Rating: G, 2005


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