Darren Aronofsky and Will Smith explore the Earth, from its bowels to space



The “Arctic-Explorer-Leone” boat, in front of the glaciers of Svalbard, a Norwegian archipelago located in the Arctic Ocean.


A great spectacle, 4K UHD images, glaciers, waterfalls, volcanic eruptions, a boiling acid lake, a crossing of the clouds… The Earth is filmed from its entrails into space; from the infinitely large of the cosmos to the infinitely small of DNA helices…

When National Geographic applies the rules of an American blockbuster to a documentary series dedicated to our planet, it gives One Strange Rock (literally “a strange rock”, translated for the French version into A planet like no other), ten fantastic episodes released in 2018. Thanks to the summer, the channel is rebroadcasting them. And it’s an opportunity to seize – while waiting for season 2, announced since 2021.

In the commentary, the American actor Will Smith, involved in his role of popularizer, in voiceover or facing the camera. With a laughing look, he alternates metaphors and humor so that no spectator picks up. Directed by Darren Aronofsky (The Wrestler in 2008 ; black swan in 2010 ; The Whale in 2023). Behind the cameras, in addition to the professionals, eight astronauts, trained by Darren Aronofsky before their mission in space, from which they bring back unpublished images.

Meteorite and dinosaurs

Gasp (“a puff of air”), the first episode, is thus carried by Chris Hadfield, “166 days in space” – each astronaut is presented by his number of days spent in weightlessness. The Canadian, very popular for his videos which show him playing the guitar in the International Space Station, is well placed to talk about oxygen, essential to life. Filmed in close-up, in his car, then by himself, in orbit, he recounts how, during a spacewalk, dust in his eye forced him to depressurize his spacesuit, depriving himself of ‘oxygen.

The main character of Storm (“the storm”) is Nicole Stott, astronaut of the STS-128 mission of the space shuttle Discovery, in 2009, whom we follow alternately in space and in her daily life to evoke the role of the meteorite which struck the Earth, sixty-six million years ago. “A chance for us”she says. “A few seconds later, the asteroid fell into the ocean: no explosion, no destruction of the dinosaurs, no humans”summarizes Will Smith.

Read the review of the documentary “The Last Day of the Dinosaurs”: Back to the Cretaceous

Astrophysicist and astronaut Jeffrey (Jeff) Hoffman serves as a guide to Shield, “the shield”, or rather the shields which naturally protect our planet from Sun “killer”: the ozone layer and water. It may seem repetitive, but the images are breathtaking: from the edge of Mount Nyiragongo (in the Democratic Republic of Congo) to the gigantic Xiaolangdi dam in China, which controls, according to the engineer present, “90% of the Yellow River”.

Broadcast at the end of the evening, the fourth episode, Genesis (“the genesis”), could have been programmed at the beginning, since it introduces all ten parts and tries to answer Mae Jemison’s question (“8 days in space”): “How did life come to Earth? » The answers are linked, at a more sustained pace, by “element”. First water then fire, via Bali, Venezuela, Hong Kong, the ISS, Iceland… Until “Bang! Happy Birthday Life! », Will Smith’s light-hearted explanation of the Big Bang. “The story is not over”, concludes the actor. Nature has protected us for millions of years, it’s up to us to take over to safeguard our “strange rock”.

One Strange Rock, documentary series by Darren Aronofsky (EU, 2018, 4 × 52 min). Episodes 1 to 4, on July 16, followed, on July 23, by episodes 5 to 7 and, on July 30, by episodes 8 to 10. Available on demand on MyCanal.


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