Narrated by James Earl Jones, the 'story' here isn't as linear as March of the Penguins or various Animal Planet shows like Meerkat Manor, but it does take us through a year on our planet with the absence of humans (except for that voice, of course).
We start with a polar bear mother and her two cubs who are being introduced to the surface of the earth for the first time. It's hard to visualize these mammoth balls of fluffy fur as the notoriously mean creatures they really are when our first glimpse has them sliding helplessly across glaciers, struggling for footing, and frolicking about. But toward the end of the movie when we meet Dad attacking a mound of walruses with reckless abandon, we see how these families have long survived the conditions.
In another portion of the film, we watch a lone lynx creeping through an icy forest, searching for a rare meal. Later, a fuzzy family of lynx makes the initial peek seem like the cameras were pointed toward an uncommon Serial Killer Lynx, because these kids are just too darned cute to be evil.
But really, the moral of the story is: An Eye for an Eye.
I realize that nature is harsh and that all species are important to the food chain for whatever reason, but that didn't make it any easier for me to watch a wolf chase down a caribou calf and take a chunk out of its backside, or prevent me from tearing up when a baby elephant gets separated from its pack during a dust storm and follows the wrong trail to try to catch up with them.
What I'm saying is: if I had kids, I'm not quite sure I'd let them see this until they were 10 or 12.
There are some scary scenes in addition to the ones I just mentioned—lions roaring during a nighttime thunderstorm, another "chase" scene involving a cheetah that doesn't end well for the prey, etc. I found myself turning away much more than I'd expected.
That said, there are some amazing scenes I could've stared at all day, such as the birds of paradise who were "preparing for dates" with females and a humpback whale calf's first swim through its new home in the ocean.
The lengths the cameramen and women must have gone to to gain this footage is nothing short of impressive (and we see glimpses of them during the credits; hopefully there will be more footage on the eventual DVD), and sitting back and taking it all in, you really do realize just how insignificant you are in the grand scheme of this planet.
Even more of a reason to be good to our Mother Earth, if you ask me.