No...please, keep reading! This is not another review of that retched CG animated atrocity from a few years back (2005, actually) starring Ben Stiller, Chris Rock, and various interchangeable members of the stunt casting brigade. You will not see wise cracking lions, insecure giraffes, or sexually hopped up hippos here. Instead, this is another in-depth documentary on the country and its indigenous wildlife from the BBC...wait, PLEASE! KEEP READING! That was not meant to scare you off either. True, this real world travelogue exposes can often be as cold and calculated as a Manchester tea of cold PG Tips and beans on toast, but in actually this is an often interesting overview of this amazing island nation, a place where evolution was allowed to continue, unchecked, for millions of years. While a bit dry in the delivery and unexceptional technically - especially for a Blu-ray - the results still achieve the end goal of entertaining while enlightening, as much about the science and specifics of the region as it is about the wonders that remain a seminal part of our vast planet Earth.
Part 1: Island of Wonders - the focus is on Madagascar's location, its unique habitat, its geographical and geological history, as well as the various famed forms of wildlife in evidence. This includes the lemur, fossas, chameleons, and weevils.
Part 2: Lost Worlds - we now move to the tropical rain forests to focus on flesh eating planets, carnivorous bugs, colorful frogs, and other manner of heretofore unseen creatures. We also learn of the fragile balance between these endangered ecosystems and the rest of the world.
Part 3: Land of Heat and Dust - heading to the more arid regions of the country, we come across poisonous trees, parrots, more lemurs, and the harsh realities of encroaching civilization, slash and burn deforestation, and the most modern of evils - man.
Until the third part, when the argument for and against progress comes to the fore, the main portion of Madagascar is taken up with the majestic nature footage we've come to expect from something like this. The lemurs clearly steal the show, using their simian like skills to wow us with their tree climbing and hanging aplomb. Similarly, the various amphibians and reptiles offer a striking contrast in color and collective threat. It's stunning to consider that some of these animals could actually harm a human, let alone kill it. It's the same with some of the otherwise gorgeous plant life that inhabits the country. As the cameras focus in and capture images that appear impossible to achieve, we marvel at such an up close opportunity. For many of us, the nearest we will ever come to a wild parrot or a cat-like fossa is in a zoo - or in a documentary like this. Luckily, the technological skill of the people behind the camera lens increases our awareness, and our appreciation.
Indeed, the best thing about something like Madagascar is that it functions as several things at once: a cautionary tale about overdevelopment; a window on a world few will ever see or experience in real life; a catalog of the creatures that make this particular place so special; a lasting testament to the power and beauty in nature; a walk through the wonders of one of the planet's most pristine and important places; a great way to spend a few hours. Sure, the BBC can be a bit self righteous in how it approaches a subject and Attenborough often sounds like one of those knowledgeable British professors who don't seem to understand that their in-class demeanor is borderline boring. And yet it's the visual feast laid before us that demands indulgence. It's a kind of grand scale gluttony that allows us to feel full without actually having to leave our living room. Madagascar may have had its reputation sullied by a series of shoddy CG animated atrocities, but documentaries like this will go a long way toward righting such a wrong. Few places in the world are like this amazing island nation. Hopefully, it stays that way - figuratively and literally.