“Welcome to Earth” Review – The Hollywood Reporter


It’s been over three years since National Geographic created A strange rock, a nature series produced by Darren Aronofsky and Will Smith.

The series featured some of the most exquisite photographs I have ever seen, approaching Earth with an almost alien perspective for its varied topography and alien beauty. I was thinking A strange rock was an exemplary showcase for any high definition television and a captivating series of vignettes focused on the featured explorers, scientists and astronauts. It was a rewarding travelogue filled with educational detail that often went off the rails because someone felt it was necessary for Smith to make pop-up appearances like what I have described as a “man of fashion” for the Earth, bringing its trademark enthusiasm and nothing else.

Welcome to earth

The bottom line

Breathtaking cinematography battles Will Smith for attention.

Broadcasting date : Wednesday 8 December

To throw: Will smith

I’m not saying that Disney + Welcome to earth was produced to annoy me, but the last collaboration between Smith, Aronofsky and the right folks at National Geographic seems to have been done with the edict, “A strange rock, only with even more of Will Smith. Or with the shutdown of various productions due to COVID, Smith had room in his schedule to fit more fully into globetrotting adventures. The result is a series which, like A strange rock, is notable for its diverse cinematography and the expert assortment who co-star with a prominent movie star who finds a way to make him a remarkable experience, albeit at times with funny results.

We can imagine a poster for Welcome to earth in which the agents of “Will Smith” and “The Planet Earth” had to fight for the first billing, resulting in a typographically advanced split credit as Jessica Chastain and Oscar Isaac received for Scenes from a wedding (only the latter is not justifiable as a peer-to-peer pairing).

Welcome to earth was named and structured, perhaps retroactively, around Smith. The title refers to the famous Independence day slogan, one so memorable that it was reused as a slogan – “Welcome to earth. Population 1.” – for I’m a legend. The vanity here is that Smith, who could have been a better ambassador for our planet before the recent self-inflicted revelations about his sex life, is perhaps the most recognizable celebrity on Earth, but he’s not always completely. comfortable. He doesn’t like water. He is afraid of certain heights. He is wary of large animals. But he’s eager to adjust his perspective and embrace a planet that, under his watch, has been invaded by aliens, zombies, mechanical spiders, and overly denominational web series.

In the last of six Welcome to earth episodes, Smith and Dwayne Fields, a British adventurer and television presenter, must navigate through a remote glacial area of ​​Iceland, and the voiceover implies that this is an opportunity for Smith to capitalize on the things he has learned during the series. At no point before has the show given any indication that there was a cumulative goal behind Smith’s various attempts to expand his comfort zone, and nothing that he actually does in Iceland. has a lot to do with anything he had done before. It all gives a strong impression of a show where someone looked at the footage and said, “Can we do something post-production to tie this all together?” Add some voiceover, add some artistic black and white talking heads footage and suddenly you could convince the audience that there was a story arc in it all. There aren’t any, but maybe that’s how they wanted to differentiate themselves Welcome to earth of Will Smith’s Bucket List, a very similar show – it even references some of his Welcome to earth getaways as bucket list entries – and I promise you it exists somewhere.

The six episodes are not much more clearly individualized. In every half hour, Smith travels to a different remote location, from the ocean depths to the lip of an active volcano in the heart of the Namibian desert, and has concept-based experiences that range from the fleeting to the very concrete, whether it’s witnessing (and attempting to photograph) the surprisingly dexterous tongue of a hungry lizard devouring a beetle or the various forms of marine life that exist in utter darkness.

Although Smith is accompanied on every escapade by an expert, he uses storytelling to explain general themes such as “sound” or “speed” or “light.” His own experiences are interspersed with tangentially related quests with lone explorers who, in most cases, will be his guides in other episodes. It is implied that these side missions are meant to inform Smith’s main journey, but it happened maybe half the time.

The explorers are more than remarkable in themselves and I have often wished that Welcome to earth had the confidence to let Smith play the foil of Trinidadian marine biologist Diva Amon, who appears in four episodes and is truly the star of the series, blind Erik Weihenmayer or NatGeo favorite Albert Lin, rather than the other way around . Smith’s job is to ask the stupid questions the audience would ask for him, but it’s not always clear that he listens to the answers as much as he prepares for his next joke.

While this sixth episode in Iceland may not be as cumulative as the series claims to be, it is the best showcase for Smith as a host personality and suggests that perhaps his third documentary collaboration with Aronofsky could be the charm. This time around, however, I found myself Google searching a lot for clarification on information left half-explained by Smith’s jokes, and I’m honestly wondering if that’s the way it is. Welcome to earth ended up on Disney + and not on NatGeo.

Again, the reason you’ll want to watch Welcome to earth it’s the visuals: each episode contains images, or two or three, that left me speechless. Highlights include the underwater shoot of Anon swimming with sperm whales and later with thousand pound manta rays, the capture of the Milky Way from a saline in Bolivia, and the heart-wrenching mission to shoot a hanging beehive in Nepal. .

The series was shot by a team of cinematographers and it is the heroes who make it exciting, scary, and generally mind-boggling – successful enough across all experience levels that I wonder why anyone felt the need to add an unnatural star-focused narrative. to all these natural wonders.


Comments are closed.