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Ambitious doc Planetary wants to be our wake-up call

Planetary documentaryGuy Reid’s first-feature is an ambitious, at times overreaching, essay-film on the imperiled state of our planet. Emily Wright reviews. 

Planetary takes an in-depth look at our place in the world and develops into a philosophical call for change in how individuals see themselves – as participants in, rather than consumers of, a fragile ecosystem.

We are in the midst of a global crisis in perspective and Planetary is styling itself as our wake-up call.

A little like Ron Fricke’s film Baraka, it takes a cinematic picture book approach that lends itself perfectly to the big screen and is well worth a watch for the cinematography alone.

The message is undoubtedly, earnestly important, but the commentary becomes dangerously sanctimonious at times.

The opening section, which expertly mixes archive footage and present day testimony by astronauts on what it was like to see the earth from space is deeply moving and incredibly vivid.

Shots of rockets soaring into the sky lend the commentary a dynamism that could have worked like a slingshot, propelling the rest of the film forward.

Unfortunately it gives way to a string of static talking heads – an assortment ranging from scientists, environmentalists, activists, philosophers and mindfulness experts – all pronouncing on the state of the earth, all lecturing us on how to be more connected.

The problem is not the shift from scholarly to spiritual commentary. The problem lies in the vague hippy ideas peddled as a solution to the earth’s problems. The wisdom of scientists, and elders gets distilled and delivered in paragraph-length soundbytes that become painfully aphoristic. The unrelenting background New Age synth music only adds to the monotony.

Still, the shots are breathtakingly beautiful, almost reverential, and they have a cumulative gravity that really is the saving grace of the film. The commentary might be preachy but the overall intention of the film is a noble one.

 

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