Astronauts always struggle to recount their first view of Earth from outer space. There’s something indescribably powerful about the pure beauty, the colors contrasted with black, and the immensity of space that instills a sense of our insignificance while also increasing our love for the planet. Directed, written, produced and edited by Toni Myers with a voiceover by Jennifer Lawrence, “A Beautiful Planet” offers a slice of that feeling for those down here anchored firmly to the ground.
In an IMAX theater with a screen seven stories high, I believed it whole-heartedly—I was an astronaut absorbing the turquoise of the Caribbean, the sun peaking over the curvature of the Earth, the formation of a hurricane. I choked up at view from the International Space Station—tears actually rolled down my cheeks. Looking down at Earth, I was overwhelmed at the precise conditions that allowed our home to exist in a universe where no life has been discovered outside of our planet.
One of the most breathtaking sights is the stark contrast between day and night, when pinpricks of light spiderweb across continents and outline civilizations, defining the Nile River and the juxtaposition between North and South Korea. A Beautiful Planet also documents direct human effect on the natural world such as river pollution as well as indirect effects like glacier melting and drought. The 45-minute documentary becomes a plea to not only acknowledge global warming, but also work collectively to keep our planet beautiful.
Though storytelling is scattered, the film’s strength lies in its timely reminder of perspective. There is nothing remotely special about our sun and solar system—except that Earth harbors the only life in the universe. With accompanied “behind-the-scenes” of astronauts’ daily lives on the ISS certain to pique the curiosity of the future’s young scientists, the documentary ends on a hopeful note. A Beautiful Planet is not an earth-shattering, paradigm-shifting documentary—it merely offers another vista of life that can be surprisingly moving.
A Beautiful Planet arrives in selected theaters April 29.