Review: The Nature of Things (Wild Canada)

Wild Canada title card (Screenshot via cbc.ca)

Wild Canada title card (Screenshot via cbc.ca)

C+

Despite the hype, Wild Canada (as presented on CBC’s long-running The Nature of Things) is essentially your standard nature documentary. Granted, I haven’t sat down and binged watched nature documentaries, but having to sit through a handful during my school days (some were even Nature of Things episodes, if my memory serves me correctly), this isn’t much different.

That's a lot of fish (Screenshot via cbc.ca)

That’s a lot of fish (Screenshot via cbc.ca)

Where Wild Canada excels compared to the previous documentaries I’ve watched is the footage quality. You’ll marvel at the sheer multitude of some of the animals in the series as well as the untouched wilderness, and wonder how it was possible to get such perfect shots.

However, it seems the pretty footage is all Wild Canada has going for it. The documentary jumps from the discovery of Canada, to fish, to leaves, to snow, to wolverines, to flying squirrels to springtime. Wild Canada doesn’t really have anything to say other than, ooh look at that, isn’t that pretty. Sure, Wild Canada has the odd fact here and there, but the documentary has little coherence.

What I think Wild Canada is trying to convey is that people had a dramatic impact on the natural landscape of Canada, but the argument is weak and muddled. Wild Canada jumps from time period, to time period, from different seasons, to different parts of the country, and if you’re not paying very close attention, you might wonder how you wound up in the modern-day arctic from earlier when the focus was on Newfoundland when it was (re)discovered by Europeans.

Ooh look at that, isn't that pretty? Everyone, look, there's trees. (Screenshot via cbc.ca)

Ooh look at that, isn’t that pretty? Everyone, look, there’s trees. (Screenshot via cbc.ca)

Even the CBC seems to miss the mark of what Wild Canada is. In the press release, as well as Wild Canada’s website, CBC seems to be distracted by the documentary’s visuals, and hypes that over its premise. It’s only until the middle of the third paragraph that CBC mentions the narrative of humans shaping the country in both Wild Canada’s press release and About page on its website.

It’s a shame that the documentary’s lack of focus could be its downfall. I’m starting to doubt that Wild Canada will live on in classrooms across the country as a video supply teachers pop in when the geography teacher is at home hung over or whatever. I’m pretty sure the arguments it’s trying to make (if it truly is trying to make any at all) have been done better before with far less interesting footage unfortunately.

Making matters worse is that Wild Canada isn’t particularly interesting despite the footage quality. Time seemed to crawl when I was watching it, and I think again, this has something to do with the lack of focus. The documentary didn’t seem to build to anything, it was just pretty footage after pretty footage. So I’m betting that unless you’re really into nature or animals, this probably isn’t going to keep your interest long. The footage quality is enough to prevent the documentary being a pain to sit though; Wild Canada is more than bearable.

A polar bear slips through the ice -- damn you, global warming (Screenshot via cbc.ca)

If you squint you can see a polar bear slipping through the ice — damn you, global warming (Screenshot via cbc.ca)

The documentary, however, randomly brought up the issue of global warming near the end, and I’d think some might take issue with the upfront way Wild Canada tackles the topic. It portrays global warming as an epic disaster threatening the planet, and the documentary doesn’t seem to acknowledge some people don’t believe it exists, or other folk who think the overall global temperature as of late is just nature taking its course and we shouldn’t make fuss about it.

On a whole Wild Canada is saved and hindered by its stunning footage. The footage may look pretty which will likely please nature buffs and be enough of a spectacle to keep the rest of us watching, but it seems the message they wanted to convey was lost. It feels as if they purely made the documentary with the prettiest footage in mind, leaving the logic behind the content as an afterthought.

Episode reviewed: The Eternal Frontier

The Nature of Things airs Thursdays at 8 p.m. on CBC [Wild Canada concludes on April 3rd]

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