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DVD Review – March of the Penguins

I guess that if a movie about Jesus became one of the highest grossing movies of all time (no pun intended), we should not be surprised to see other unusual subject matter become popular at the box office. This is the case with March of the Penguins, a documentary about the life cycle of the Emperor Penguin. This strange species lives in the Antarctic in what is surely the most horrific climate in the world.

When the Antarctic summer begins to draw to a close the Emperor Penguin, having spent the summer feeding in the ocean, feels the need to march inland to the very place where it was born. So begins a comical trek of penguins, single-file, marching day after day for up to seventy or even eighty miles. Having arrived at the place of their birth, the penguins begin to seek out a mate, somehow carefully choosing one that seems ideal to them. They begin a loving, tender dance and song which leads to breeding. Weeks later the female delivers a single egg which she immediately and carefully passes to her mate. She, approaching death because of losing much of her body weight to the egg, returns to the sea and feeds. The male, having placed the egg on his feet, incubates it for two months, standing still and huddling together with the rest of the pack to keep warm. Through terrible winter storms and temperates approaching 100 degrees below zero, they stand together to protect their young. When finally the egg hatches, the female returns and finds her mate. She then takes the baby and the male, not having eaten for several months, heads to the ocean to eat. In the following months the male and female takes turns feeding and caring for the young.

It is this amazing cycle that is captured in March of the Penguins. The narrator, Morgan Freeman, tells us that this film is a love story. But it is more than that. In his review, in which he gave the film 4.5 stars out of 5, Roger Ebert wrote the following:

I think it is more accurately described as the story of an evolutionary success. The penguins instinctively know, because they have been hard-wired by evolutionary trial and error, that it is necessary to march so far inland because in spring, the ice shelf will start to melt toward them, and they need to stand where the ice will remain thick enough to support them.

Why do penguins behave in this manner? Because it works for them, and their environment gives them little alternative. They are Darwinism embodied. But their life history is so strange that until the last century, it was not even guessed at. The first Antarctic explorers found penguins aplenty, but had little idea where they came from, where they went to, and indeed whether they were birds or mammals.

While I generally agree with his assessment of the film, Ebert misses the mark in this area. The Emperor Penguin does not embody Darwinism but clearly shows the handiwork of a Creator. “For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse” (Romans 1:20). It is startling to think that everyone who watches this incredible film has further left himself without excuse when he stands before God and attempts to plead ignorance.

The Emperor Penguin, being far more than a mere “evolutionary success,” is, in fact, one of the creatures that evolution cannot fully explain. Answers in Genesis, drawing from the excellent DVD series Incredible Creatures That Defy Evolution explains:

[C]onsider how (in a climate which no other living creature can endure), the emperor penguins get to the same destination, but via a different path, each time. As the narrator poses the question, “How do they get there—by an invisible compass inside?” And these aren’t the only birds that seem to have a built-in compass—migratory birds do as well.

Dr. Jobe Martin points out in the DVD Incredible Creatures that Defy Evolution (Volume 3) how amazing it is that the egg, which is only a couple of inches from the ice, doesn’t freeze. “The fact that their feet don’t freeze on the ice is a miracle in itself,” he adds.

With mother gone, the male penguin must carry and protect the egg for more than 60 days (practically without moving), without eating, and while exposed to the worst weather conditions on earth. (When all is said and done, the male will go without food for 125 days.)

So, how do the male penguins keep their eggs, let alone themselves, from freezing in the extreme polar weather? As a way to resist the blizzard, the penguins regroup in a turtle-like formation while swirling around like a snail. Compressed against each other, they take turns being in the middle where it’s the warmest and being on the outside where it’s the coldest. All the while, they are shuffling along the ice, careful not to lose the egg that is so delicately balancing on their feet.

What makes these male penguins cooperate in such perfect harmony? According to an article by the Australian Antarctic Division (AAD),3 it’s their instinct as a social creature.

Another special adaptation of the emperor penguin, according to the AAD article, is the penguin’s ability to “recycle” its own body heat. The emperor’s arteries and veins lie close together so that blood is pre-cooled on the way to the bird’s feet, wings and bill and warmed on the way back to the heart.

Many evolutionists say that the penguin is a bird that supposedly lost its ability to fly, as Dr. Martin points out in Incredible Creatures that Defy Evolution (Volume 3). “But evolutionists haven’t come up with any ancestors for the penguin,” he counters. “So what kind of bird was it that became a penguin and lost its ability to fly?” he adds.

The Emperor Penguin is irrefutible evidence of a Creator. This documentary (inadvertently, I’m sure) does a wonderful job of presenting this creature in a way that showcases God’s creative ability and his love and care for every creature. This is a film for the whole family and one that will stir your heart with awe towards the One who created this world and everything in it.

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