Galapagos: The Islands That Changed the World might be a lesser-known production than the BBC/Discovery Channel uber-series, Planet Earth. However, this much shorter project (2.5 hours compared to almost 10) is no less beautiful or entertaining. Like Planet Earth, Galapagos is shot in brilliant high definition and intimae glimpses into the lives of these islands’ inhabitants. Both in terms of visual beauty and informative content, Galapagos offers countless “Wow!” moments. Lost in all the discussions of environmental crisis, global warming, or creation care is, perhaps, an emphasis on just what we are trying to preserve. To that end, both Galapagos and Planet Earth remind us of the beauty and diversity of the natural world around us.
Galapagos: The Islands That Changed the World is a beautiful two and a half hour journey into “the islands of the tortoise.” Off the coast of Ecuador, these gorgeous islands are full of exotic wildlife that appear to be frozen in time from some pre-historic age. The Galapagos Islands have been formed over millenia worth of volcanic eruptions which continue to this day. In fact, though the lava eventually cools and solidifies, the islands themselves remain in motion, floating eastward at a rate of about an inch or so per year. Stunning cinematography captures the islands’ diversity (both their topography and inabitants) from a variety of perspectives, from high in the air to deep below the sea. Tortoises, iguanas, albatrosses, blue-footed boobies, and even penguins occupy this collection of islands just off the equator. Yes, penguins do live on the equator, thanks to a large current of cold water that flows up from the south.
Recent Academy Award winning actress Tilda Swinton narrates the program, and thankfully, her script does not detract from the beauty on the screen. In the final segment, there is an emphasis on the human relationship to the islands, which had only been hinted at previously. Of course, any discussion of The Galapagos Islands without reference to Charles Darwin would be incomplete. Throughout the course of the series, different examples emerge of animals who have evolved to suit their surroundings. The producers’ choice to employ actors to portray Darwin and his acquaintances strolling around the islands is not a distraction, nor was it completely necessary.
The film concludes with a forced, it seems, inclusion of the harmful effects that tourists are having on the islands. As an ever-increasing advocate of environmental stewardship, this did not turn me off; however, it seemed to be a sharp contrast with the rest of the film. Nevertheless, the beautiful images that compose every second of this production serve as encouraging reminders of the diversity and beauty of all life forms that we should work to preserve.
Galapagos: The Islands That Changed the World (150 mins) is unrated and available on DVD.