Prayer Focus
Movie Review

March of the Penguins

MPAA Rating: G for General Audiences

Reviewed by: Mari Helms

Better than Average
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Moviemaking Quality:

1 hr. 24 min.
Year of Release:
USA Release:
June 24, 2005
Copyright, Warner Independent Pictures
Copyright, Warner Independent Pictures
Copyright, Warner Independent Pictures
Copyright, Warner Independent Pictures
Copyright, Warner Independent Pictures

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Copyright, Warner Independent Pictures

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Featuring: Romance Bohringer, Charles Berling, Jules Sitruk, Morgan Freeman
Director: Luc Jacquet
Producer: Yves Darondeau, Christophe Lioud, Emmanuel Priou
Distributor: Warner Independent Pictures

In the harshest place on earth, love finds a way.

A successful documentary presents facts artistically, Luc Jacquet succeeded. “March of the Penguins” is an extraordinary film narrated by Morgan Freeman (“God” in Bruce Almighty). The film follows a flock of Emperor penguins, for a year, as they emerge from the frigid waters of Antarctica and travel 70 miles in harsh winds and freezing temperatures to make it back to “where they were all born.”

After reaching their traditional breeding ground, they select a mate and are monogamous to that mate for the current mating season. After the female lays the egg, they will engage in an intricate dance to pass the egg from female to male. The male protects the egg while the mother makes the 70+ mile trek back to feed (the journey gets longer as the water gets further away due to freezing).

During the mother’s absence, the father shields the egg from hazardous weather conditions. The chick hatches while the mother is away, so upon her return she will see her chick for the first time. The father then departs for his 70+ mile trek back to the water for his food. The traveling back and forth by mother and father continues until the end of the season when they will all return to the water as a family.

Once they reach the water, the parents dive back in and part ways, and the chicks stay on the ice and will likely never see their parents again.

The movie gives a detailed account of the life of an Emperor penguin with many interesting facts. During the course of the year, the penguins seemingly show signs of love, jealously and grief for a variety of reasons. You may feel you know more about Emperor penguins than you ever wanted to know, but there are life lessons that can be learned.

It is a story of nature, not of Hollywood, so gone are the special effects and computer imaging. They are replaced with actual, breathtaking footage of Antarctica splendidly captured by filmmakers. The temperatures drop as low as 80° below zero, and the winds rage at 100 mph, which makes the filming of this movie phenomenal. Stay for the credits to see actual behind-the-scenes footage.

VIOLENCE: The violence in the film is brief and mild, only depicting what truly happens in nature. In one scene, a Leopard seal eats a penguin, and a couple of close-up images of the seal’s mouth and teeth just prior to the attack may be a little frightening for a young child. The actual attack is not shown, only implied. In another scene, a bird is preying on the newly-hatched chicks, and one is caught and eaten by the bird. It is obvious when these scenes are about to take place, if you felt the need to cover your child’s eyes.

DISTURBING: Some chicks die due to the elements, and they show one dead that may upset a young child.


SEX/NUDITY: The penguins mate during the film, but it is understood, not shown.

OBJECTIONABLE: The male and female penguins select a mate and are monogamous to each other for that season only. Morgan Freeman says, “All bets are off” referring to the next season when they will choose a different mate. It seemed inappropriate and out of place in relation to the rest of the movie.

“March of the Penguins” has lessons to teach about:

“LOVE”: According to the film, the penguins take this tremendous journey for “love” and to find a mate and reproduce. The dedication, cooperation, and affection are exemplary between the pair.

PERSEVERANCE: We could learn a lot about perseverance from Emperor penguins. I was quickly reminded of the ant in Proverbs 6:7-8 “It has no commander, overseer or ruler, yet it stores its provisions in summer and gathers its food at harvest.” No one is reminding these penguins what to do; they know what to do, and they do it. They are prepared, persistent and committed, much like we are called to be as witnesses for Jesus Christ. 1 Peter 4:15 “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.”

The penguins endure treacherous conditions, yet they continue on their journey, focusing on what lies ahead (new life). It may be a bit of a stretch, but I thought of what we, as Christians have to endure to get what lies ahead for us (eternal life). Philippians 3:14 “I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”

THE EXISTENCE OF GOD: One year in the life of an Emperor penguin is a great indication of the existence and character of God. Romans 1:20 “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.” He is absolutely perfect! Every detail has been taken into account, and every provision has been made. Witnessing all the love and care that He must have put into creating the penguins is small compared to what He put into creating us. Matthew 6:26 “Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?” Leaving the theater, I was more in awe and in love with my Creator.

FRIENDSHIP/COMMRADERIE: All the penguins wait to start their journey until the last of them is out of the water, giving a sense of unity. As the penguins make their journey, they will all stop from time to time until one of them picks up the trail again, and then they all start moving. It is similar to what we are called to do in the body of Christ. 1 Corinthians 12:27-28 “Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it. And in the church God has appointed first of all apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then workers of miracles, also those having gifts of healing, those able to help others, those with gifts of administration, and those speaking in different kinds of tongues.”

While the fathers are caring for their unhatched chicks and braving the harshest of weather, they all huddle together in a huge heap for warmth. The ones on the outside rotate, so they all have a turn in the middle. Philippians 2:2-4 “then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.”

I was truly fascinated by the lives of these penguins, maybe because I felt we as humans could emulate much of it and be better followers of the gospel of Jesus Christ. They all worked together towards a common goal; there was no fighting, gossiping and disorder. There was apparent “love,” cooperation and order. 1 Corinthians 12:25 “so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other.”

I found the movie exciting and educational (but my three year old found it boring). What a great feeling it was to leave the theater without watcher’s remorse (sitting through a movie that went against my value system or offended my Lord and Savior). It was weird to see something on the big screen that I would normally watch on PBS on my 26-inch television. I would see “March of the Penguins” again, but not in the theater—in the cost-effective, comfort of my living room.

DVD cover
DVD release: Nov. 29, 2005

See list of Relevant Issues—questions-and-answers.

Viewer Comments
Positive—This is the best animal documentary I have ever seen. I believe everyone should take their kids. I do not remember seeing any evolutionary content. This movie is fascinating and held our attention. I intend to take my 14-year-old daughter to see this because this film shows the wonderful creativity of God. I’ve been telling everyone I know that they should see this movie.
My Ratings: Excellent/5
—Maggie Hays, age 58
Positive—We took our 8 year old son to this movie and we all loved it. It is a documentary, think Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom, and you will be prepared for what is to come. There is death, but that should be expected given the subject. Given the in-depth review above, I won’t rehash all the examples of God’s love and providence, but will say go see the movie. It is good for children who have seen other nature shows. It is a wonderful family experience.
My Ratings: Good/4
—Gloria C, age 38
Negative—I entered the movie theatre unaware that “March of the Penguins” was a documentary film. Having taken my 6 kids with me, ages 6 months-6 years, I regret every moment. From a mother’s point of view, this “movie” is really geared toward older children, and really only those interested in learning. This is not a funny, cute film about penguins. It’s the down and dirty details about life as a penguin. Much offensive material for little ones. I advise strongly against taking them. You need to be able to handle and understand death by numerous causes to watch this film.

Now, from a Christian perspective, in the opening scenes of the movie, it explains that the yearly penguin routine has gone on for millions and millions of years, which we all know is false. Since I was unable to see the whole film (thanks to the little ones—not my choice to take them by the way) I am not able to give further input from a Christian point of view. And, I have no intentions of ever viewing it again, so overall, I’ll have to give it a big thumbs down.
My Ratings: Average/3
—Paula, age 26
Positive—For a documentary, this was fairly entertaining, though the only thing that I thought separated it from a nature show on TV was its filming in Antarctica. The views and camerawork are amazing. On the other hand, it might have been nearly as good on video at home and for much less money. I took my three year old son to this movie for his first theater experience. For the most part he enjoyed it, though he got restless at times. There is little to no mention of evolution, and the complexity of the penguins’ lifestyle testifies to a Divine Creator. To think that natural selection or even the penguins themselves could come up with the idea to migrate miles and miles multiple times each year without their partner or their offspring is a bit insulting to my intellect. How great is our God!
My Ratings: Good/3
—John, age 33
Positive—We are on a weeks vacation with 4 grandsons, ages 9, 11, 12 and 13. Having kept an extremely busy schedule of adventure and learning with some new experiences, from morning to evening, we wanted to take a break and see a “good” movie. We were not at all disappointed. The grandsons, all athletic and full of energy were enthralled by the movie, and the grandparents were very relaxed with the content. This is an excellent documentary. The filming, of course does not match a Hollywood production, but who cares? It was very authentic and real. We strongly recommend seeing this movie.
My Ratings: Good/5
—J. Harold Engle, age 68
Positive—I think the lady-poster above has a gripe about being taken to see a movie with 6 very young children and not with the movie itself. Yes, the movie does mention one time the “millions” of years ago view, but surely we as parents talk with our children as to why that view is wrong. And there were a couple of predator scenes but done very tastefully and again surely we talk to our kids about how hard life is and it opens up talk about them needing our protection in life. This was a very sweet documentary. I would caution against taking the very young because A. They might find it boring and B. They might have a harder time understanding why a bird was attacking the baby penguin. Though there were many little kids in our theatre and none of them cried at that scene and they were quiet throughout the whole movie. My daughter, age 8(I have 4 children, I left the 3 under the age of 4 at home) and I enjoyed it immensely.
My Ratings: Excellent/5
—Lisa, age 39
Positive—March of the Penguins is an outstanding of example of filmmaking at its finest. Young and old alike should experience and enjoy this true life adventure. Personally, I think young children should be exposed to such films and learn about the natural cycle of life and death. Other parents may disagree.

The narrator mentions that the annual mating ritual of emperor penguins has been happening for, “…millions of years.” Getting offended by this is like getting offended because your neighbors are geologists. The vast majority of the world’s scientific community believe our Earth is billions of years old. Christians believe our Earth is not nearly that old. That’s it. It should be expected that a secular documentary will agree with most scientists. As a Christian viewer, just disagree, move on and enjoy this film.

Watching the penguins begin their journey by slipping out of the sea and onto the ice was amazing and somewhat magical. I kept reminding myself I was watching real penguins and not digital animation.

The makers of “March of the Penguins” simply and artistically filmed what they saw and, probably unwittingly, presented an example of our Creator’s design, infinite wisdom and imagination.
My Ratings: Good/4
—Patrick Germain, age 40
Positive—We need more movies like this! This is the only movie we’ve taken our 4 year old to this summer and we all loved it. I wouldn’t have referred to the penguin’s behavior as “love” in the sense that human beings experience it, but I was not offended by the term. I just thought it was silly. The film was was beautiful to watch with nothing scary, dark or offensive. A+++
My Ratings: Excellent/4
—Mrs. Evers, age 37
Positive—Overall, great, but once again a movie maker gives human emotions to animals—human motivations to animals and we MUST discuss this with our kids. Is the fantastic, almost unbelievable process of the penguins truly a “love story” and if so, why do the penguins stand around while a baby penguin is attacked by the albatross?

God gave the penguin’s an instinct that is amazing; far beyond anything mankind would dream up. And animals are very much capable of showing love and loyalty. But, in an age where kids are being taught that humans are nothing more than “top animal” on the planet, we train our kids to think like God thinks.
My Ratings: Better than Average/4
—R Brown, age 40
Neutral—There’s a lot of talk about this film somehow promoting monogamy. But the penguins mate for one year, abandon their chicks not long after birth, and mate with a different penguin the next year. That’s a weird example of monogamy, except if you’re in Hollywood.
My Ratings: Average / 3½
—Ed Westin, age 42
Positive—…I took my grandchildren to the film, and we all loved it. We all thought the film exhibited love, devotion, tenderness, dedication to their young and a strong family unity. How often do you see those values exhibited at the movies these days? We will actually buy the DVD of it when it comes out…
My Ratings: Excellent! / 5
—Lois, age 55
Positive—This was a lovely, fascinating film. I’d recommend it to anyone over the age of 7. Like other viewers, I was awestruck by the creative power of our God. It’s hard to watch a film like this and *not* see the evidence of a designer. The sheer difficulty of the penguins’ lives speaks more of a divine plan than of an evolutionary process that, if real, would have led to the extinction of these extraordinary creatures.
My Ratings: Excellent! / 5
—Ashley, age 42

Comments from young people
Positive—…a beautiful film in every sense of the word. Not only is its subject matter a visual delight (the penguin chicks have a plaintive charm all but lost in other movies, like this summer’s Madagascar), but its story of love and survival is so simply, so eloquently portrayed it could almost be viewed without Morgan Freeman’s narration—excellent though it was.

No, this is not an animated children’s movie, nor is it an Animal Planet special, as some mistaken moviegoers seem to think. Yes, it does contain one initial reference to “millions of years,” but unlike the standard nature documentary, March of the Penguins does not focus on the birds’ history or their instinctive adaptations to the environment. What makes this film so endearing is its powerful characterization of the penguins themselves, showing a sweet, even heroic bond of love—yes, love—between mother and father, parents and child. I strongly encourage families to attend, parents and grandparents in particular.

Finally, “March of the Penguins” runs well over an hour, if I remember, so it is definitely not a film for impatient or noisy children (or adults, for that matter!). Be cautioned, too, that there will be a few sad moments involving the death of a penguin, but they are brief and mostly kept off-screen—and there are moments of joy and humor to balance things out. I saw many kids (age ten or so) in the theater clearly enjoying themselves, so by all means bring them along if they like animals and have sufficient self-control to appreciate a documentary. Highly recommended.
My Ratings: Good/5
—Louise, age 16
Positive—I definitely recommend this movie for all ages. It’s way better than “Two Brothers”, didn’t have any detail scene of the mating process between animals. Kids don’t need to see that kind of stuff even if it is animals. There’s no objectionable material and it gets right to the point. It’s a very cute movie.
My Ratings: Good/5
—Mary, age 17
Negative—I have no moral objections, I mean, it’s a movie about penguins. But, it was the most boring movie I have ever seen in my entire existence. It’s cute at first, watching the little penguins waddle around. However, it quickly descends into boredom. Snow, penguins, more snow, more penguins, snow storm, penguins… and so on. I would not recommend it, it’s very very boring.
My Ratings: Excellent! / 4
—Brian, age 17
Positive—I found this movie amazingly well done, it is a perfect movie for any family, animals lovers inparticular. It has happy and sad moments, as it show the hardships Emeperor Penguins have to go through, cold weather of -80 degrees, loss of many chicks and eggs, hunger. But it also shows the good things, chicks hatching, reuniting with the mothers, starting a new life. It shows how hard life is in general. This movie really give a whole new outlook on penguins that so many people have wrong. I think the flim makers should get some kind of award for just being out in the Antarctic for about 3 or so, hours a day for about nine months. It must have been really hard and extreamly cold. But they did it, and amazing job it was.
My Ratings: Good / 4½
—Shawna S, age 14