RUNNING TIME: 94 minutes
• Feature: Inside the Volcano
• Additional Scenes
A making-of documentary 4.5 BILLION YEARS IN THE MAKING!
Initially perceived as Donald Irwin’s attempt to ride his brother’s coattails,
“The Rock Hunter” was actually very well received by high school science teachers.
A frontal assault on The Book of Genesis, The Pope, Ben Stein, Jerry Falwell’s corpse, and mouth-breathing fundamentalists, How The Earth Was Made chronicles the “rocky” geological beginnings of the non-Epcot Spaceship Earth. From its molten birth in a womb of cosmic magma to its eventual blossoming into a wet, steamy, man-infested life ball, Made spares no detail in the behind-the-scenes story of how it all went down.
Featuring interviews with paleontologists, geologists, historians, and naturalists, Made tells the story of Earth’s dynamic upbringing as the life-iest kid in the solar system via computer generated effects and the dulcet, mellow tones of History Channel narrator Edward Herrmann.
In an attempt to surreptitiously undermine the film’s heretical message, fundamentalist
graphics artists tried to insert the stern face of Jesus whenever possible.
Launching into this review with a discovery of my own, I was shocked to find a genuine Jesus Face in one of the molten renderings of Earth’s surface during the first few minutes of the feature. Aside from my obvious markup, the screen capture above is untampered with. That Jesus looks pretty angry to me! At the risk of incurring His Holy Wrath, I’ll continue with my assessment of How The Earth Was Made, which is a fine if overly ambitious piece of educational material.
Using a helpful but slightly-on-the-nose terminal-green blinking year marker, Made literally follows the planet’s historical timeline from the beginning. The story of Earth’s formation is neatly juxtaposed with depictions of the geological discoveries that made our understanding of the planet’s beginnings possible; this human element turns out to be critical to Made‘s success, as we spend a great deal of time exploring the violent, lifeless hellscape of Earth’s distant past. Alongside detailed renderings of Earth’s iron rich, lime green proto-ocean and blood red skies, we learn about Scottish Archbishop Usher’s attempt to quash James Hutton’s radical theories about the Earth’s ancient past. Apparently, many people in the 18th century believed the church’s assertion that the Earth was no more than 6000 years old (and created on a Sunday in October, if you believed Usher), so the idea of a 5-billion-year-old Earth would have been bad for church business. What a bunch of idiots.
Little Lord Fauntleroy had a rare perversion known as Bilblioagrophilia, which
is an intense fondness for reading books while squatting in a large crowd.
Made moves on to show how early life forms may have contributed to the development of the planet, as well as the several known mass extinction events that eradicated nearly all life from Earth’s surface. While Made doesn’t indulge in cheap drama, it’s sobering to learn that Siberian megavolcanoes once erupted constantly for ten million years, eliminating most of Earth’s life forms. A random Magma bubble could easily wipe us all out. Combine that with killer asteroids and the impending ice age, and Humanity’s days are certainly numbered. Just try not to think about it all the time.
Where Made stumbles is its eventual lack of focus. It starts out as a fascinating look at the Earth’s birth, but shifts far to soon to life on the planet. By the middle of the documentary, Made is already pondering the extinction of the dinosaurs and the future geological history of the Earth, which is a very well worn (but popular) topic. The last half of the feature tends to focus on potential disasters and the formation of interesting geological features, such as the Alps or the Grand Canyon. Taken as a whole, it’s less of a “Making Of” documentary and more of a very generalized geological history of the planet, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t worth a look.
In an attempt to outdo Coke’s “If I could teach the world to sing”
ad campaign, Pepsi teamed up with Christo to create “Pepsi: Earth”.
For a History Channel product, Made‘s visuals look great. CGI is interspersed with real-life volcanic carnage to great effect. The final act’s dinosaurs look less-than-Spielbergian, but a few of the more interesting aquatic beasts definitely round out the bestiary for the better.
Those even mildly interested in natural history or geology will find much to like about How the Earth was Made. It manages to explore rich, complex subjects without getting too bogged down in its own density, and while it would have been better served to focus specifically on the first hundred million years, its breadth can be refreshing to those just wanting to graze. It should find a home within high school Earth Science curricula (which, thanks to budgeting problems and the tragic application of standardized testing, is an increasingly rare find in today’s schools), as it’s both informative and quite a lot of fun to watch.
There’s a lengthy feature on volcanoes that seems tailor made for the classroom, as it’s broken down into chapters by individual subject. There are a small handful of additional scenes for the especially hungry.
A hidden bonus feature: Collect rational, fact-based ammo to use against Young Earth proponents!
The audio is a monumentally weak Dolby 2/0, and the video is just as weak. Some of the more detailed CG work looks good, but the video-shot interviews were blowing pixels all over the place. It certainly wasn’t ever going to be a reference disc, but it would have been nice to give some of these great visuals some love.
The box art isn’t mind blowing, but it’s printed on post-consumer recycled cardboard.