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What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Microcosmos provides an up-close inspection of the insect world in living color using microscopic cameras. Beetles battle; spiders kill prey; flowers bloom; snails kiss. There's extremely brief narration at the beginning, and the rest is a journey through lush landscapes that zeroes in on insects going about their business. It features gentle music and a tone of awe and wonderment, but this is still fangs, feathers, cocoons, and wings, which is to say bugs that look relatively harmless from afar can take on the visage of monsters at frightening proximity, and, of course, spiders are always creepy. It's captivating, but smaller kids could just as easily be fascinated as frightened.
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What's the story?
The world is overrun with insects, but have you ever seen them up close and personal? Here, time-lapse, slow-motion, and zoom lenses show us the insect world as we've never seen it. Spiders track and overwhelm their prey; bees zoom through the countryside, mosquitoes hatch, and beetles do battle as the camera races through grass, ponds, and hillsides to reveal the life teeming below.
Is it any good?
MICROCOSMOS was released in the mid-1990s, but it holds up. The revealing shots are as crisp and intimate as ever, and the film marvels at the natural world in what's more of a hypnotic meditation than a classroom lecture. That said, viewers looking for bug trivia will be disappointed. Though there's brief narration, the insects and weather are the stars here, and the documentary lets everybody do their thing while racing around to catch it all, pausing on occasion to watch a mosquito hatch or a beetle push a ball of dung uphill.
More importantly, one kid's awe is another kid's nightmare. Though most viewers will be fascinated by the unique vantage offered here and likely inspired by nature as a result, be cognizant of the unsettling aspect of seeing beetle jaws up close or spiders dragging their victims through the water to entomb them. Birth and cocoons and slithery worms are as intriguing as they are repellent, and rain never looked so violent as it does from the viewpoint of a nearly submerged frog.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the film's camera techniques of time-lapse, slow-motion, and microscopic closeups. How does it make the insect world look to you now? Had you ever seen it this close before?
Imagine what it would be like to experience the rain as the frog in the documentary did. What would you do? How do you think it would feel?
What role do insects play in our habitat? Should we fear them or be grateful for them?
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