Review of “Welcome to Earth”: when our eyes deceive us

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“Welcome to Earth” It seems somewhat improper: “Welcome home” could have been better, even if it seems to be improving. But who can say that a natural spectacle will not make us better people? Hosted by actor Will Smith, who convincingly and charmingly fears what he’s about to dive into, the six-part series relates to the world as the world relates to our senses, or escapes them: from the depths from the sea to the edge of a volcano, there are sounds, smells and colors that we don’t normally feel because they are ignored, obscured or beyond our reach. What “Welcome to Earth” explores, like a Mungo Park of the mind, are not just places but human perceptions, and Mother Nature’s clever ways of hiding.

Welcome to earth

Wednesday, Disney +

Cleverly directed by Darren Aronofsky (“Black Swan”, “Requiem for a Dream”), the spectacle is visually striking, with phosphorescent marine life darting under a glass-bottom boat in Puerto Rico’s Mosquito Bay at ” human fish “without eyes that live – as they did for 20 million years of darkness – under the karst plateau in Slovenia. Or the perceived “moon-bow” – “with the right camera and the right lenses,” says a photographer – over the Iguaco Falls in Brazil. Much of what we get we’d never see without a cinematic edge, but that’s what makes so many “Welcome to Earth” so mysteriously alluring: an invisible, or barely visible, parallel existence on which the spectacle shines in an artificial way. light.

The light itself is at the center of Episode 1, which also involves an intimidating journey: deep in the Atlantic, off Bermuda, in a hooded submersible called the Nadir (not the most auspicious name, this which Mr. Smith nervously recognizes). Our host admits to being nervous; luckily, he doesn’t seem to notice the crew member blessing himself as the craft containing Mr. Smith, marine biologist / diver Diva Amon and their pilot is launched into the water. On the way to 3,300 feet, the colors of the spectrum disappear, one after the other, as the sunlight finally disappears completely; Mr. Smith’s red shirt, which someone insisted he wear, turns blue as the natural light from the surface gradually fades away. In the artificial glow of the Nadir, it is possible to see vibrantly colored fish. Why? Because without a camera light, these colors make them invisible to predators.

Migration in the Serengeti


Photo:

National Geographic for Disney +

Mr. Smith does not travel to all places visited by “Welcome to Earth”. Environmentalist Jonathan Martin and photographer George Steinmetz, for example, using a UV lamp, go on a nocturnal hunt and find “disco painted” squirrels in the forests of Wisconsin. But in episode 2, devoted to sound, Mr. Smith accompanies mountaineer and adventurer Erik Weihenmayer (the first blind man to reach the summit of Everest) to Mount Yasur, a very active volcano in the archipelago. of the South Pacific of Vanuatu. What they study, besides the lava that gushes out and the rocks flying around them, are the sounds, how the deep, trembling vibrations are absorbed by the body, and how much sound becomes imperceptible to human ears in the midst of the body. daily din that surrounds them. Mr. Weihenmayer is an excellent guide for the Mount Yasur sound card.

Will Smith dances with the people of Vanuatu.


Photo:

National Geographic for Disney +

Episode 4 (Episodes 1, 2, and 4 were available for review) is about the scent – how tiger sharks converge each year on Raine Island in Australia, or how the scent of the Fresh cut grass affects the human brain, compared to, say, that of a predatory bird. For many of us, the mowed grass evokes immediate memories, with the chemicals released having an instant effect on our mind. The same chemicals are released when a caterpillar chews a blade of grass. Hungry birds know the difference. For them, “it’s not the smell of summer,” notes Smith. “It’s the smell of lunch.” At the same time, Mr. Weihenmayer can smell salmon when rafting down a river. A lot of people would really like to take him fishing.

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