“Our Great National Parks” - Docuseries Review

posted May 1, 2022 in

Encompassing an entire world of national parks in an inspiring and impressive set of episodes, this new documentary has proven to be an enlightening sign of hope for the future of the planet that continues to be polluted and mistreated.

“Our Great National Parks,” a new Netflix documentary series narrated by former president Barack Obama, covers several of Earth’s preserved lands that have become national parks, stretching from the California coast to the deserts of Africa.

Within these national parks preserve hundreds to thousands of unique species of wildlife. The more isolated a national park is, the rarer the species that inhabit it.

Luckily, this documentary gives audiences an exclusive look at some of the wildlife, including the rare Sumatran Tiger in Gunung Leuser National Park, Indonesia.

In the first of five episodes, Barack Obama’s familiar voice sets the tone, already familiarizing audiences with the overall theme of the documentary: preserving the planet to help fight climate change.

He explains that these national parks are rich with significant ecosystems, endless species of wildlife and everything in between. It is crucial the human race does its part in preserving them. They are an example to follow in taking care of the rest of the planet.

The first area of the world audiences are introduced to is Loango National Park in Gabon. Accompanying spectacular visuals of the beaches and the jungles, audiences get a look at some of the wildlife there, such as the Decken’s sifaka, a species of lemurs.

Yakushima National Park in Japan is also discussed in the first episode, as well as Kakadu National Park on the northern coast of Australia, a landscape dominated by rivers and wetlands.

Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, the largest coral reef network in the world, is then shown. Audiences are already familiar with the scale and significance of this coral reef, making it only fitting that it is talked about amongst the world’s greatest national parks.

The entire second episode covers the Chilean Patagonia, which holds 24 national parks within it. It contains the Andes, the longest mountain range in the world, as well as lush forests throughout, housing an incredible amount of unique species.

Some of the national parks discussed in Chilean Patagonia are Torres del Paine, Patagonia National Park and Cerro Castillo National Park. Audiences get a look at pumas, guanacos (a relative to the llama) and the monito del monte (a type of opossum.)

In the third episode, audiences are taken to Tsavo, Kenya. Breathtaking landscapes and unique lava flows from the volcanic activity cover the land.

In one part of this segment, the camera crew observes a specific rhinoceros at night trying to find a mate, using special technology to see their nighttime activities in color.

The fourth episode brings the audience back to the United States and to the California coast. Orcas, sea lions, and more familiar animals are seen in their natural environments.

The fifth and final episode wraps up the documentary series in Indonesia, the most visually stunning of the areas of national parks that are covered.
The conclusion emphasizes the prevailing theme of fighting climate change by preserving and maintaining these environments for future generations to enjoy and thrive upon.

While this documentary succeeds in its visuals and ability to capture the wildlife in their most vulnerable states, it is nothing groundbreaking or anything that has not been done before.

The choice of narrator, Barack Obama, overshadows the main message of the documentary. Though some feel he is qualified to speak upon the topic of climate change, his presence takes away the opportunity for audiences to internalize the importance of it themselves.

Although, most impressively, “Our Great National Parks” does a fantastic job in taking the information on the national parks and making it relevant to the main goal of the documentary.

For example, in discussing the hippopotamus in the Chyulu Hills of Tsavo, it is shown that the hippopotamuses defecate in the rivers in which they inhabit.

While this is entertaining for audiences to witness, Barack Obama adds that it acts as a natural fertilizer for other species in the waters, bringing out much needed nutrients for them.

While the documentary does not accomplish anything original in its topics, it still succeeds in being an entertaining and educational film for Netflix users. If anything, it reinforces the important ideas of climate change and preserving the planet.

Rating: 3/5

Madison Imber is a second year majoring in public relations. To contact her, email mbi5065@psu.edu.