“March of the Penguins” Review

March of the Penguins (La Marche de l’empereur) (2005)

Penguins are living lessons in caring for the earth and its creatures, in all their beauty and vulnerability.” Charles Bergman

This beautiful documentary, narrated by Morgan Freeman, gets close and personal with emperor penguins, marvellous, unique animals that reside in one of the harshest environments found on Earth – Antarctica. From penguins’ tricky courting rituals to the hatching of an egg, a remarkable moment, and the raising of chicks, March of the Penguins follows every step in emperor penguins’ lives, providing much insight.

The documentary opens with splendid vistas of the South Pole, where nature is untouched. The film does not even have to have much by way of a story as any shot of penguins is enough to do its job to entertain, so remarkable and fascinating these creatures are. We learn that in every step of their lives, emperor penguins have to be very resourceful and patient to survive. At the end of each Antarctic summer, the emperor penguins journey to their common breeding ground, where they mate, which is a complicating process. And, when the egg is hatched, the female penguin must transfer it to her male and start making her way back to sea to search for food. It is this food she then has to bring back to her new-born chick, who finds itself miles away from its mother. This means that the father-penguin must stay first with their egg and then with the chick, waiting patiently for the mother’s return over three cold and dark months.

The most memorable parts of the documentary are definitely the hatching of an egg and one chick’s first steps. Chicks of emperor penguins must be some of the most adorable animals on Earth. They look so cute they hardly appear real, but resemble soft toys. The film even touches on the issue of overfishing by humans. This means that there is not enough food available for the very young among penguins in many places, and many chicks die. This issue is very sad and needs to be addressed.

It may be hard to believe, but there are still plenty of scientific mysteries that surround emperor penguins, those creatures that are “birds, but won’t fly”, that “live partly in the sea, but won’t swim…” One such mystery is the uncertainty as to how emperor penguins find their way (the Sun? “internal” navigation?), and that applies to mother-penguins who have to find their way home to their chicks over long distances after feeding, and then able to recognise their offsprings from hundreds of thousands of other penguins.

Perhaps, March of the Penguins does “humanise” the penguins to provide for a more interesting viewing experience, but there is nothing wrong for it to emphasise the love and warmth of parents towards their young. Winner of an Academy Award, March of the Penguins is a magnificently-shot documentary, which is full of wonder, showcasing some of the most remarkable animals on earth that have a truly unique relationship with their environment.


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