Review: ANTHROPOCENE: THE HUMAN EPOCH Isn’t Affecting Enough

anthropocene landfill
Dandora Landfill #3, Plastics Recycling, Nairobi, Kenya, 2016. Photo © Edward Burtynsky, courtesy Howard Greenberg Gallery and Bryce Wolkowitz Gallery, New York / Robert Koch Gallery, San Francisco.

Anthropocene: The Human Epoch is yet another new nature documentary exploring the impact that humans have had on the Earth. Although the message the film has is undeniably timely and important, the way in which it is presented is not fascinating enough to make it stand out among the sea of other similar movies that have come out this year alone.

In the film, the filmmakers travel around the globe documenting the evidence of humans’ long-lasting impact on the world and how it will continue to affect future generations. Ultimately, the movie isn’t quite abstract enough to work as a piece of avant garde cinema, but it also doesn’t have strong enough narrative momentum to be compelling on its own.

Even though the film clocks in at under an hour and a half long, it ends up feeling extremely slow. There are multiple segments in the movie exploring different ways in which humans have altered and impacted the ecosystem, and as one would expect, some of these are more interesting than others. Had the film stuck with just a few of these case studies, it could have explored them with more depth and nuance.

Obviously, this movie hopes to create a sense of urgency regarding the human influence on the planet. The title refers to an era in which humans are the dominant species on Earth rather than just a part of the puzzle, and the film argues that, if human consumption continues at the current rate, there won’t be a puzzle after a while.

anthropocene tusk burn
Elephant Tusk Burn, Nairobi National Park, Kenya. Photo courtesy of Anthropocene Films Inc. © 2018.

The movie uses narration from actress Alicia Vikander to reinforce some of the film’s more important content. Although this will help mainstream audiences understand more easily what they are watching and why it is important, it also prevents the viewer from coming to any conclusions on their own. Instead, it feels like the audience is being force-fed not only the information, but also the way in which to perceive it.

A more effective way to communicate the messaging would have been to give the audience an identifiable human subject. For example, the Anthropocene Working Group, a group of scientific researchers investigating the human epoch, should have had an expanded role in the movie. With this, the impact of the message could have been made more significant.

Visually, the film is phenomenal. The cinematography is excellent, with some amazing shots being used throughout the movie. Granted, this isn’t the average nature documentary in that it isn’t trying to elicit the audience’s awe regarding the beauty of nature. Rather, the film successfully illustrates the horror of human consumption and the terrible effects it has on the world.

There are some interesting statements made in Anthropocene: The Human Epoch, but those statements have been made more effectively before. While it isn’t bad, there are other nature documentaries from this year that are more worthy of your time.

Anthropocene: The Human Epoch opens in theaters on September 25.

By Sean Boelman

Sean is a film student, aspiring filmmaker, and life-long cinephile. For as long as he can remember, he has always loved film, but he credits the film Pan's Labyrinth as having started his love of film as art. Sean enjoys watching many types of films, although some personal favorite genres include dramatic comedies, romantic comedies, heist films, and art horror.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *