I doubt this has ever been said before, but I’ll go ahead and say it: Once you’ve seen one nature documentary, you’ve seen them all. Breaking Boundaries: The Science of Our Planet relies on stunning landscapes and emotional manipulation to get its point across, rather than any factual evidence that it demeans to the passenger seat. Meanwhile, in the driver’s seat sits a teacher that lectures us into thinking that material plants are more important than people.
While giving its arguments about climate change, all the usual bits are there: polar ice caps melting, polar bears losing their homes, animals going extinct, pollution causing the earth to get warmer than it’s ever been before, yadda, yadda, yadda. One computer graphic shows what happens when icebergs melt… except it doesn’t actually show what happens when icebergs melt, for it looks like something that a high schooler would make in engineering class.
Among its more prevalent illustrative graphics is one of a thousand digital dummies walking on a platform in space as a way of visualizing the how much danger we are putting ourselves in crossing the limit of a specific category, be it levels of fresh water or amount of rainforest left in the world. But no graphic ever shows these dummies walking the opposite way toward earth, which makes this problem look irreversible. More graphics between each piece of film footage are composed of what look like digital neurons with electric pulses traveling from here to there, as if they’re trying to make it more exciting for younger male viewers, but twenty years from now, I guarantee the CGI will look silly.
All these smart people being interviewed give their facts in a monotone fashion without any of their personalities coming through; it would have been better if their personal lives were included to offer context on why they’re doing what they’re doing. Not only does this force you to fight the urge to not close your eyelids, not only does it lessen the chance of you remembering these facts, but these self-indulgent doctors are hypocritically looking down on you for being the ones who are killing our planet.
Outside of America, the way this depicts world problems is somewhat irresponsible. To make Africa look even more impoverished than it really is, the select scenes there focus only on the poor parts. Likewise, the parts of Asia it shows are only the hazy, heavily polluted parts of the major cities, you know, where the streets are so densely packed by people wearing facemasks. I get it’s trying to make us see the crisis at hand, but there’s little grace to show when several other crucial cultures, such as those of the Middle East or even the Native Americans, who also have critical parts to play in this cause, are left out in favor of the White Americans.
There is something that amazed me about the imagery though, and that’s the vast variety of which locations it showcased. The mere dedication the production crew went through to visit as wide a scope of different climates, countries, and weather conditions is simply remarkable. It’s all there: snow, ice, green forest, sandy desert, over the ocean, under the ocean, the shore, the cosmos, animals living away from civilization, animals living directly outside of civilization, animals living within civilization, iconic cities with clear skies, and even iconic cities with aerosol overtaking the air. Every nature and animal shot is amazing to David Attenborough’s calming, pleasant narration, but you really know it’s got great photography when even the city skylines are absolutely stunning with complete sharpness in detail.
Along with all these views that make you fall in love with nature and want to save it, there’s a little dose of humor that is used to make a big statement. A couple of shots show a herd of bison in the road, right where other cars are struggling to make it through. Your immediate instinct in a situation like that would be, “Get out of the way you cows! I need to get to work!” Meanwhile, the bison are probably thinking, “Get out of our herding grounds you primates! We’re looking for good food to eat!” After seeing imagery before this point of animals in their natural habitat, and how obtrusive human interference gets in our globe, it begs you to question: Who’s in who’s way?
Other visual aids that ignite your inner tree hugger includes the powerful shot of a lone polar bear in the water of Greenland, and later on a researcher discusses the bleaching of the coral reefs by showing the miles and miles of those very coasts that now turned a ghostly pale. So you are bound to feel an immense, unbearable level of manipulation from the way this documentary presents its facts, enough to make you want to do something about it. Yet even harder hitting is the part about the infamous 2020 Australian wildfires that kicked off the worst year in the history of man. One researcher goes into a burnt down forest that once was green and full of life, a favorite visiting place for her that’s now in ruins. She grows greatly troubled and even erupts in tears over this devastation, and you do too. But what really hits it where it hurts is images shown of the wildlife lying on the ground dead in those destroyed forests. There is very little out there that can trigger your need to help than seeing an innocent piece of life cut off way too soon; this is among the approximately 20% of worldwide forest we’ve lost, and it’s clearly presented to be our fault.
Not that any of this pandering to first world problems works, that is, since so much effort went into the guilt-tripping, but none whatsoever on the inspiration. It proposes to cut emissions by half each decade… but how? What can the law enforcement, nurses, and entertainment industry do to ensure that happens? Do we install more solar panels? Do we shut down meat industries? I’m more confused than motivated at this rate. Another big way it suggests we can make a difference is by planting a tree… because, yeah, EVERYONE has access to the right kind of seeds needed to grow such a thing, and EVERYONE has the expertise and knowledge of how to grow one properly. Yet its simpler, more universal takeaway is simply to eat healthier, um… what are some examples it has in mind as to what kind of food we should eat? Where should we buy our food? Examples like that would help. It would more importantly answer the real important question: Why should the average person, and more importantly, kids watching, care?
We shouldn’t see scientists as gods like what this documentary promotes, so if you were to watch Breaking Boundaries, you’ll more likely feel like you’re back in school watching propaganda rather than feel motivated by entertainment to help out for a major cause.
If there is a specific movie you’d like to see graded, or if you are interested in guest blogging for my site, please email me at Trevor@TrevorsViewOnHollywood.com for your recommendations.
Have a great weekend, and happy watching!