Documentary Series Captures Awe-Inspiring Footage
By REBECCA HOEFFNER
When I agreed to review "Untamed Americas," I was expecting a pleasant show narrating the actions of animals I already knew and places I'd already seen.
Instead, it was a breathtaking adventure spanning two continents with new facts and never-before-filmed creatures that sometimes had me laughing aloud at their antics.
"Untamed Americas" is a four-hour miniseries produced by National Geographic and Nat Geo Wild. It took a little more than a year for filmmakers to film and covers territory from Alaska to Patagonia.
The show will be air on two nights, June 10 and 11, and each of the four episodes focuses on a different landscape of the Americas. Mountains and deserts airs on June 10, and coasts and forests airs on June 11 at 9 and 10 p.m.
Josh Brolin narrates and captures the fun spirit of the show well -- when he describes desert toad mating rituals as a "sex romp" with a banjo playing in the background, you can almost hear his smile.
Two factors make the show special: the cinematography and the animals themselves. The Tube-Lipped Nectar Bat of Ecuador made its film debut on the show, and viewers get a view of its tongue (which is 1.5 times the length of its body, the longest tongue of any animal in proportion to its size) from
the flower it pollinates during the six days the flower's in bloom. The bat is the flower's only means of pollination. If that isn't the definition of incredible, I don't know what is.
Even the more familiar animals were shown in a new way. Back in North America, videographers captured a Red-tailed Hawk chasing down a squirrel with angles and close-ups in tight squeezes that kept me wondering "how did they do that?" Videographers were able to film the already-elusive jaguar as it killed a caiman; a stroke of luck that Brolin compared to "winning the lottery."
Throughout the course of the miniseries, I found myself rooting for characters in each scene. The editors were able to give a sense of the "good guy and bad guy," though those divides don't really exist in the animal kingdom. Still, it was hard not to feel a little satisfied when a crab stops a villainous amphipod from chewing through a jellyfish (and who in their right mind even likes jellyfish?)
Maybe it was the laughable moments that made me invested, and there were a few. When young elks fight over a water hole before they've grown antlers and a distractible Spirit Bear keeps losing his fish, the moments were grin-worthy.
Despite all the fun, "Untamed Americas" is a notable force in the realm of nature documentaries. In the course of the four episodes, I learned more than I expected to.
Did you know there's a moth that can jam a bat's sonar to keep from being eaten?
And when the animals weren't stealing the show, the cinematography was awe-inspiring. A view of the Altiplano night stars and Colorado Plateau rock formations literally made me gasp.
I started college as a biology major. While I switched to journalism my sophomore year (couldn't hack the math a biologist has to do), I still love learning about and watching animals -- I had forgotten just how much. "Untamed Americas" surprised and reminded me.
"Untamed America" will begin airing June 10 on National Geographic.