Have You Saved Any "Pandas" Today? For Shame Review

National Geographic has phenomenal composers. In a mere 36-minutes (the box rounds the runtime up to a full 40), the swelling orchestral crescendos of Pandas: The Journey Home bring a tear to the eye as a desperate, emotional battle is waged to save a species that has dwindled to a mere 1,600 worldwide in the wild. The furry fluffballs are adorable and the scientists inventive as a collaborative struggle takes the fragile population from birth in captivity to self-reliance in the jungle, with laughs and sorrows along the way.

The doc centers on the resilient team working out of the Wolong Panda Center in China. Resilient in that the Wolong Nature Reserve, where the pandas are taken for wildlife training in larger jungle enclosures before final release into the wild, was largely devastated in the 2008 Sichuan earthquake. Countless pandas died, heartbreakingly engulfed by collapsing mountains encircling the now ruined buildings. The pandas of Wolong Panda Center are survivors; some of the last of their kind and some of the last hopes to save their kind.

As cute as the pandas on the cover may look, this isn’t a doc meant for kids. Much of the focus is on the science of copulation, as a female with only two days to mate is paired with prime candidates. The Center’s process of saving and raising twins, when a panda mother usually lets the weaker of the two die, takes up the film’s second act, and, finally, the integration into the wild brings the story home as young Tau Tau learns to fear predators and feed himself.

Mankind’s encroachment seems like a dramatic cliché at this point, but docs like this remind viewers that it is anything but. Great species are being pushed to the precipice of existence and, while most people work to buy bigger homes and faster cars, idolizing those that already have them, Pandas is a reminder that there is a world of crusaders dedicating their lives to a fuller, more vibrant planet. Buy the film, give to the World Wildlife Fund. It’s the best 36/40 minutes you’ll spend today.

Blu-ray Bonus Features

The disc includes the feature as 2D and 3D Blu-ray and on DVD, with a "Save the Panda" featurette.

 

"Pandas: The Journey Home" is on sale June 16, 2015 and is not rated. Documentary. Starring Joely Richardson.

Sep
01
2015
Kyle North • Staff Writer

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