Lost in space.
A Beautiful Planet attempts to take an in depth look of Earth from space, while also sharing the experiences of the astronauts that stay on the International Space Station (The ISS). And while the film captures the magic on camera with some wonderful shots, it’s an overall lackluster experience that’s greatly hindered by poor narration and structure.
The most eye catching thing about A Beautiful Planet is just how wonderfully it’s shot. Every shot is littered with awe inspiring vistas in jaw dropping locations. Small stories can be told by just looking at the landscapes and seeing how time has worn them down. Shots of mountain ranges and typhoons continuously had people in the audience going “ohhhh” and “look at that”.
If M&S adverts are considered food porn, then this documentary should be seen as Earth porn.
Another nice aspect is seeing more inside of the International Space Station. The documentary follows different astronauts as they live in the ISS floating above the planet. We get to hear how they’re feeling about living in space, and all the little changes that go along with it. They’re all so likable and interesting, you always want to see all the little intricacies that make up their lives in space. While they don’t make up the majority of the film, every scene they’re in makes for a fascinating time.
Sadly, the documentary isn’t entirely fantastic. It suffers from a lot of flaws that cause a lot of problems.
One of the biggest issues with the documentary is the poor narration. Jennifer Lawrence lends her vocal abilities to narrate and explain what’s happening on-screen, and while it’s clear she’s doing her best, nothing can save her from sounding bored out of her mind. The narration is spoken like it’s being read of a script for the first time, and try as she might, she can’t make anything sound mildly interesting. It doesn’t help that her monotone voice is separated by interviews with astronauts who speak with such great passion and understanding, who talk with such joy in their voices it’s hard not to get excited. But that excitement ends when Jennifer Lawrence cuts in to inform the audience that America is home to The Great Lakes.
Another problem is the clear lack of an objective. The documentary has no real focal point or solid focus. One minute you’re being shown what icecaps look like from space, suddenly you’re looking at people growing vegetables in the ISS. It’s cool and wonderfully fascinating, but it comes out of nowhere and leaves you with the feeling of whiplash.
Also, during the 45 minute runtime we follow a group of three astronauts as they bored, and eventually leave, the ISS. However the documentary gets bored of their story and decides to cut it short half way through, and says that “the day has come for them to return home”. Then, for no reason, after Lawrence explains that France is in Europe, we cut back to them still in the ISS and living their lives in space. We then spend more time with them until the very end of the film when they leave…again…
You begin to question if the editors actually stopped to watch the film before it was sent out, because the storytelling is a complete mess.
Don’t go into A Beautiful Planet expecting a magical tour of our planet. If you want a good time where you can just sit back and enjoy pretty shots of Earth, then grab some popcorn and 3D glasses, and enjoy the ride. Just don’t expect anything coherent and informative.