If Frozen Planet taught us anything (and it almost certainly did), perhaps one of the most obvious lessons was that there are few things more soothing than the combination of penguins and David Attenborough’s epic narration.
Planet taught us anything (and it almost certainly did), perhaps one of
the most obvious lessons was that there are few things more soothing than the
combination of penguins and David Attenborough’s epic narration. The Penguin King 3D is further evidence of
this. The film combines some spectacular footage with a fascinating story, and
completes the package with Attenborough’s rich narrative voice.
The action follows a year in
the life of one King Penguin on the sub-arctic island of South Georgia. We
watch as the penguin finds a mate, becomes a father and then rears a chick in
the face of the many dangers that plague the “penguin city” it calls its home.
Anyone who has seen Frozen Planet will be familiar with the narrative style The
Penguin King employs, using a storyline and bringing in characters – the
penguin, his cousins, his mate and his chick – to humanise the events shown.
This style, which places the film somewhere between a nature documentary and
the likes of Ice Age or Happy Feet, is hugely affective. It
allows us to grow emotionally involved with the penguins and the story, as well
as opening the door to some great moments of humour. A scene involving a pack
of beached elephant seals, for instance – creatively described as “60 tonnes of
blubber and flatulence” – provides an amusing obstacle for the main penguin and
The style also allows
moments of tension to be introduced in to the film. The threat of predators
like the killer whale is combined with some creative editing and ominous music,
which ramps up the suspense and brings in a dramatic element. Again, this is
mostly done to good effect, although some scenes do come close to appearing
melodramatic or contrived – the baby chick being rescued from a
blood-splattered killer Petrel by the perfectly-timed arrival of its father,
for instance, seems a little too good to be true.
But these moments can be
forgiven. For the most part the narrative element adds to the documentary
footage rather than detracting from it, and the film is so beautifully shot
that any melodrama quickly becomes forgotten. The combination of on-land and
under-water footage (and the under-water shots are particularly impressive)
adds to the epic, all-encompassing feel of documentary, giving us the sense
that we really are seeing all aspects of the King Penguin’s existence.
The Penguin King fully
immerses us into a colourful and entertaining world, while providing further
proof that Attenborough rarely fails to deliver.