Review: A Beautiful Planet (2016)


Director: Toni Myers

Starring: Jennifer Lawrence (narrator)

Release Date: 27th May 2016 (UK)

This was never  going to be the easiest review to write. A Beautiful Planet is, modestly put; a documentary about the earth, space and the natural beautiful world that we live in. What I watched can’t really be considered the giving of an opinion – although there are some rather clear messages being passed on. The film is about a real, tangible, exact physical manifestation of the earth that we live in. It’s not seeking to do anything particularly ground-breaking or make some earth-shattering  announcement of some incredible new discovery. It is quite simply a view of what the earth looks like from space as told by the astronauts aboard the International Space Station.

I will not bombard you with ream after ream of technical detail, about the fact that it’s the first time that digital cameras (Canon EOS C500 EF and EOS 1D-CDigital SLR though – if you’re interested)  were used exclusively for  recording space footage by the IMAX team. I won’t kvetch about the fact that Jennifer Lawrence was used because indeed; like everything in this world we all have our uses, even she. Firstly she wasn’t on screen, so I wasn’t subjected to her slightly buttery looking features (my own – possibly flawed opinion of her screen persona), secondly she has a rather beautiful gentle lolloping, soft  American accent that is actually very easy on the ear. It suits perfectly the sweeping vistas of the horizons from aboard the ISS craft of the earth as seen from the newly installed 360° view, on board space cupola, lastly (and here folks is the masterstroke), Jennifer Lawrence has utterly universal appeal to a vast audience and as such, will help the new wave of young entrepreneurs, scientists, filmmakers and the potential  next generation astronauts take a second glance at this film, and perhaps take a closer look at what is achievable in terms of equality in life path.

In fact the semiology of what this film represents, I feel is absolutely key to its success. There are no binding equality structures adhered to or otherwise, the film looks in a very neutral way at the people on board the ship, they are just astronauts, there are no definitive sexual descriptors that break or divert from the task in hand, in fact the universal approach is all-encompassing. No man/woman stereotypes, no strength or weakness filmic disturbances. No “pop psychology”. The subject matter and the topic – our world and how it looks from space takes absolute precedence and the absence of any traditionalist staging, that is sometimes found in documentaries, is dispensed with here.

The message and footage are allowed precious, beautiful filmic space to breathe and resonate correctly. What is the message? There are a few but primarily, this is our earth, it might melt to be all water if we don’t buck up our ideas, we must consider more closely our individual impact on it, anyone can be an astronaut, lettuce can be grown in space. Coffee tastes wicked wherever you have it. Planets do exist where life could possibly occur. Space travel is cool, Japanese astronauts suck at juggling fruit. Eco-systems exist on varying levels, but essentially what really matters to the human is how we behave toward each other and to the space which we inhabit…. on whatever plane of existence that might be. This might be an uncomplicated documentary that is a view of what the earth looks like from space as told by the astronauts aboard an international space station, but in and of itself; that is truly an astonishing thing if you think about it. It certainly blew my tiny mind when I considered the notion as I wrote you this piece.

You can see this film out in IMAX cinemas in glorious 3D from 27th May. You can also listen to my interview and related podcast of my time interviewing the inspiring director of this film, the utterly modern and incredibly eloquent Toni Myers as she describes in detail the more interesting technical aspects of the making of the movie.

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