Nature documentaries are made with the purpose of inspiring awe in viewers—showing them the grandeur of the natural world, seen through the eyes of a trusted narrator. “Wings 3-D,” produced by BBC Earth and directed by veteran nature documentarian John Downer, tells the story of life on Earth from the point of view of the many bird species that populate the sky as they migrate across the planet to their many different breeding grounds.
Narrated by David Tennant—of “Doctor Who” fame—the 90-minute documentary was part of a two-night screening put on by Fathom Events in select theaters across the country, presented with two episodes from Tennant’s tenure as the titular character in “Doctor Who.” Filmgoers were treated to “A Special David Tennant Event,” one night being a screening of the two-part “Doctor Who” story “Rise of the Cybermen & The Age of Steel,” then donned 3-D glasses the next night for “Wings.”
“Wings” is an all-encompassing visual experience. The film uses a number of techniques, such as following birds in a small glider and even attaching a camera to a bird’s body, to throw viewers into the harsh terrain of Arizona’s Monument Valley, steep cliff sides of Baja California and crocodile-infested waters of East Africa’s Rift Valley rivers. From vultures soaring over the plains of central Africa to massive murmurations of starlings over Rome, Downer never lets up on his hold over the viewer’s gaze.
Tennant’s narration, while pleasant, detracts from what viewers see on the screen at times—his soothing Scottish accent describing what is happening on screen when a peregrine falcon is chasing after a group of starlings, for example, doesn’t fit the intense, action film-like sequence. His narration pairs well with calmer scenes, such as a flock of pelicans flying by as humpback whales shoot plumes of water into the warm Baja waters.
Downer is determined to create an air of seriousness and drama to “Wings.” One of the core tenets of the film is that viewers will see the world “from a bird’s eye view,” as Tennant proclaims in opening scenes, on which it delivers. “Wings 3-D” succeeds at capturing the imagination and attention of its audience, taking them on a journey through the sky.
Youssef Shokry is the assistant arts editor. Contact him at [email protected].