Back from the Brink: Saved from Extinction

Movie review by
Tara McNamara, Common Sense Media
Back from the Brink: Saved from Extinction Movie Poster Image
IMAX nature docu proves human efforts can make a difference.
  • NR
  • 2019
  • 39 minutes

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We think this movie stands out for:

A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Educational Value

Biodiversity, environmental science, and ecosystem health are explored.

Positive Messages

Animal species die out because the ecosystem has been changed or disrupted, but they can be brought back to robust numbers through scientific intervention. Curiosity is valued.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Environmental scientists, park rangers, and students are shown working together to figure out and solve issues of dwindling populations in three animal species. 

Violence & Scariness

Ants swarm, cover, and kill a crab; dozens of dead crabs are then shown. A reenactment shows a hunter shooting a bow and arrow, which seems to strike a monkey. Bird picks over the carcass of a dead animal. 

Sexy Stuff
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Back from the Brink: Saved from Extinction is a 39-minute IMAX science documentary about endangered species that comes from the the Russo brothers (the directors of several Avengers movies). Narrated by Claire Danes, the film explains in clear terms why the featured creatures are nearing extinction and how environmental scientists are tackling the problem. Iffy content is minimal, but kids may be alarmed by some of the realities of nature, including a bird picking at an animal carcass and ants swarming a crab. There's also a reenactment of how hunters used to track the Golden Monkey: A hunter shoots a bow and arrow, and the film cuts to a shot of a monkey falling. It's in black and white to make the distinction that it happened in the past, but younger kids might think they just watched a beautiful animal being killed. 

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What's the story?

BACK FROM THE BRINK: SAVED FROM EXTINCTION follows three stories of endangered species around the globe being rescued from the edge of extinction. Narrator Claire Danes reveals the daring measures taken by scientists and ecologists to save the Channel Islands Fox, the Christmas Island Red Crab, and China's Golden Monkey.

Is it any good?

If Avengers filmmakers Anthony and Joe Russo know anything, it's how to please young audiences, and that insight is applied to this engaging nature documentary. Back from the Brink: Saved from Extinction is exactly what parents want from a science museum film: It's quick (39 minutes), educational, and hopeful, and kids will get it. First, the animals are adorable: a little fox, a fuzzy monkey, and somehow, even the crabs are cute. While the movie is about death and why these populations are dwindling, it doesn't dwell on the circle-of-life visuals that typically upset young viewers. Instead, it simply identifies what the problem is and then gets to solving it, all set against astounding giant screen cinematography. And it's actually more motivating than the traditional conservation film because it concentrates on success stories. Kids walk away knowing that if they put their time and brain to work, their efforts just might pay off.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the ecosystem around their house. What elements of nature do you see? Considering the land, water, and sky around you, what living things do you share space with? What things might you do that would alter your ecosystem -- hiring an exterminator, for instance -- and what do you think the effects might be?

  • How can one change in an ecosystem create chaos? What examples did you see in Back from the Brink: Saved from Extinction? How are humans sometimes responsible?

  • How are the people in the film -- the scientists, students, and park rangers -- spurred by curiosity? Why is that an important trait in environmental science? 

  • Why are nature documentaries important? What's the filmmakers' mission? Do you think the scientists, students, and volunteers in the film are moved by compassion for the animals or a different purpose? 

  • How is teamwork demonstrated in the film? Could the species be saved if just one person was working on it? Why is teamwork an important life skill?

Movie details

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