Review: Planetary

Planetary, documentary, film, review, Jamie Doherty, Kettle Mag
Written by JamieLDoherty

‘Planetary’ is an 85-minute documentary from the Planetary Collective – a band of scientists, philosophers, artists, and academics who believe in changing the popular view of the world through creative work.

The film itself, their first full-length feature, depicts the world as a single organism. Breaking down the boundaries of countries and continents, the narrative of the film, communicated through interviews with various members of the Planetary Collective, is used to show how life on Earth is dependant on each life form as well as on the Earth itself; how as humans we’re unconsciously destroying much of it.


‘We are in the midst of a mass extinction’



More than an environmental documentary

A lot of this is played through what’s known as the overview effect. This is a phenomenon experienced by astronauts, and described in the film by actual ISS astronauts, in which by looking down on the Earth from above their worldview changes. Rather than the giant, conflict driven world we imagine from the surface, astronauts depict a ‘pale blue dot’ that is fragile and in need of protection.

In showing extensive cuts of the Earth from the ISS and images of glaciers and wildlife – the more vulnerable parts of our planet – the director tries to recreate this with good effect, forcing the viewer into a conscientious state for the remainder of the film.

‘Planetary’ isn’t just confined to environmental issues, however.

‘The average American is significantly less happy, on surveys, than they were fifty years ago – despite our standard of living trebling over that time.’

The film claims that focusing our lives towards driving the economy, using the particular example of aiming for a bigger house further away from other people, has not only alienated ourselves from our environment but also failed to make us happy.

Thought provoking, but still raises questions

This idea that the human race is on a hell bent trajectory to destroying itself for no actual reward is a depressing thought that the film articulates well. The images are poignant and resonant well with the narrative, and the musical score, an original composition, is fittingly Brian Eno-esque. Where the film tries to remedy this thought and provide an almost happy ending however, is where I think it lets itself down.

Amongst some legitimate points, how every technological species must go through this stage of their evolution at some point being one of the better, the film develops a fascinatingly strong focus on meditation.


Sure, the argument that meditating promotes connectivity with your environment and that that brings the important things into focus is valid, but as a response to the starkly depressing points made in the first half of the film just seems naïve. It feels like the seriousness of the film is belittled by the notion that sitting by a pond, as one speaker suggests, could solve anything.

Despite my irritation with some parts of the film, the Planetary Collective have succeeded in producing a thought provoking piece of the work that serves as a reminder for, and adds new perspective to, the greater issues facing humanity – just don’t expect it to offer any answers.

What do you think of Planetary? Have your say in the comments section below.