In 2005, French director Luc Jaquet enriched the film world with the exceptionally beautiful epic “March of the Penguins”. The documentary gave us a beautiful insight into the frigid, Antarctic world of the largest penguin species in the world, the stately and majestic emperor penguin. The top documentary was quite rightly awarded an Oscar and drew crowded cinemas worldwide. Moreover, the structure and the chosen narrative made “March of the Penguins” more than an ordinary documentary; the film has the appearance of a feature film with feathered protagonists, complete with moments of romance and intense drama.
For “March of the Penguins 2”, Jaquet went to the South Pole again, this time armed with a variety of state-of-the-art equipment such as drones, special underwater cameras and ultra-HD cameras. The results are impressive. Surprising camera angles, extremely detailed close-ups of fluffy penguin babies, spectacular underwater images of adult birds darting through the underwater landscape like winged torpedoes, and phenomenal panoramas of the hostile and desolate Antarctic ice desert; these are just a few examples of the cinematographic delicacies that Jaquet and his team serve us.
The subject and the chosen storyline largely correspond to those of the first part. Once again the emphasis is on the challenging and exhausting journey that the penguins must undertake from the sea to reach their common breeding site. This time the whole has been cast in a somewhat more fragmented form – complete with flashbacks – so that the story gets more momentum. As in the first film shown penguins quickly become real characters, characters with whom the animal lovers among us an empathetic band soon will be.
So even the most critical image critic cannot fault the visual presentation of “March of the Penguins 2”. Yet the film does rely heavily on the power of repetition. There is (too) much overlap with the original, which sometimes gives the film the character of a disguised remake and loses its urgency. That impression is further reinforced by the fact that in recent years more beautiful productions about penguins (think for example of the three-part BBC series “Penguins: Spy in the Huddle”) have appeared. The storytellers Lambert Wilson (English version) and Thomas Acda (Dutch) of this second part also lag behind Morgan Freeman and Urbanus, the duo that provided the voice-overs in the original.
The end result is a film that visually belongs to the absolute outside category, but often feels like a repetition of moves. That in itself is not entirely illogical, because emperor penguins are simply not animals with an unbelievably wide spectrum of different behaviors. It is also a bit of a shame that Jaquet leaves the problem of declining penguin populations unaffected by climate change. That could have given the film some extra relevance. Still, anyone who enjoyed the first part can also blindly add “March of the Penguins 2” to their list of movies to watch.