Sunday, September 14, 2014

The National Parks: America's Best Idea

Glacier National Park, Montana
Beginning with John Muir's dream of seeing his beloved Yosemite protected, continuing with Theodore Roosevelt's follow through using presidential action to preserve pristine natural monuments around the country, and concluding with controversial decisions to protect vast amounts of Alaskan wilderness in the 1970s, while covering a multitudinous number of stories from many of our 59 federally protected parks in the years in between, The National Parks is another ambitious, informative, and patriotic work from documentarian Ken Burns. As most of Burns' films on extensive topics have a habit of doing, The National Parks produces a "star" here in the form of Shelton Johnson, an eloquent Yosemite Park Ranger from humble beginnings on the urban landscape of Detroit. Aside from Shelton, however, the talking heads are surprisingly lackluster, perhaps because there's only so much to be said about the majesty of these wonders that already speak for themselves, especially when you've had the privilege to have seen some of them in person.  Nonetheless the historical aspects and footage are excellent, which is par for the course in a Burns' film, and despite a few plodding middle episodes, the opening and concluding segments are astounding.
*** out of ****