Enchanted Kingdom 3D: NZFF Review
The initial signs for Enchanted Kingdom weren't great.
A portentously overblown voiceover from Idris Elba, telling us that "the sound of nature is all around us" at the start as people get rained on in the city culminates in the camera pulling back and spiralling to the continent of Africaaaaaaaaa (Extra "A"s added in voiceover for dramatic effect I suspect).
Thankfully after this OTT moment, the film from BBC Earth settles down a little to take in 7 portions of Africaaaaaaaa for our visual stimulation and enjoyment.
But in adopting a rather piecemeal and episodic touch to the subject matter, rather than trying to find a narrative thread and following it through, Enchanted Kingdom occasionally feels like a missed opportunity as it bounces from portion to portion.
Despite timelapse photography revealing some of the wonders of the realms, including wondrous ice landscapes that live by night and die by day, the team's frenetic flow feels forced and the end result isn't as successful as previous NZIFF nature documentaries have been.
That's not to say that Patrick Morris and Neil Nightingale don't realise that characters are what we invest in on these journeys - as well as never before seen sights.
They give time to a dancing lizard which continually lifts its feet to avoid burning in the desert, and to a baby elephant out with its family on a trek for water, as well as a group of gorillas frolicking under the lush verdant greenery.
There's even time to take in some of the lava flows and their destructive nature - and a far too brief chance to explore underwater before zipping on to the next moment. There's menace from crocodiles like dragons (according to Idris) menacing Wildebeest, a moment that reminds all of us of the crueller side of nature and the inevitability of survival.
But the segues to each section feel contrived and false, and while it's all beautifully shot and the HD crackles with colour even though the 3D glasses naturally dim parts of it, Enchanted Kingdom feels a little tame overall. While the kids in the audience were wondrous at it, I suspect the adults may feel they've seen portions of it before, even if the look is not as polished and as dazzling as this is on the big screen (though I'll admit, I'd have sacrificed the 3D to see it on the Civic's mighty screen).
Summing it all up with the trite bon mot that "Nature is all around - and in every one of us" before launching into a Coldplay song nails the coffin shut - and despite the eye-popping visuals just about managing to save the day, it's not so much an Enchanted Kingdom as more a Meh-chanted Kingdom.