National Parks Exploration Series: The Black Hills and the Badlands - Gateway to the West (2011)

Not Rated   |    |  Documentary

National Parks Exploration Series: The Black Hills and the Badlands - Gateway to the West (2011) Poster

Nestled in the heart of America's Great Plains are the distinct landscapes of a sacred land that beckons the visitor to enter the nation's mysterious and glorious west. A land of soaring ... See full summary »


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Ron Meyer


Ron Meyer

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20 October 2019 | rooprect
| Good overview but a bit misleading with the cover picture (too many people, not enough park)
Maybe you're like me, and you love watching natural documentaries to escape from the less-than-tranquil human world that dominates our time. The cover photo, title, and the fact that this video is produced by the US National Parks might lead you to believe that you get a visual tour of what you would experience if you could escape to the west for a day or two. Yes, you get that, but you also get other things that you may not be expecting.

Following a nice introduction which shows us the scenery as promised, largely shot from above but also with some hyper closeup shots to give us real-world perspective, the video next delves into history, largely departing from the stunning majesty of the region and instead giving us archival photos, interviews with rangers and specialists, and lots of standard library stuff... you know, like the things you might see and read on the placards in the visitor's center if, for some bizarre reason, you choose not to spend your time actually exploring the terrain.

At first it's just a mild diversion, especially when they talk about the evolution of the natural landscape and the fascinating ancestors of our modern animals at this location. But then it takes a rather weird detour into human history, spending a lot of time on human slaughter of animals, human slaughter of humans, and a rather strange and lengthy segment about Wild Bill Hickock and how many people he shot to death before ultimately being shot to death himself, closing with an even more bizarre adulating summary of how he was such a kind and generous human. You get the feeling that maybe the estate of Wild Bill Hickock may have funded part of this documentary if they promised to put in a good word for him.

Maybe if this stuff were advertised more prominently I would have been prepared, rather than expecting a glorious nature-only documentary to transport me away from the disturbing world of humans. I understand and appreciate the segments about endangered species being hunted by humans, and I even understand the need to talk about how the indigenous native americans were tricked, betrayed and ultimately slaughtered by the US Cavalry. But around midway through the Hickock glorification, you may start to wonder why they devoted nearly half of this 68 minute show to 19th century humans--probably NOT what you would spend your time obsessing over if you were actually standing in the middle of this incredible expanse of earth.

For my money, I could've done with less talk, more scenery.

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Release Date:

December 2011



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