Give this guy his own TV show already. Three years after Grizzly Man, Werner Herzog is back with more oddballs in extreme places. His new documentary goes to Antarctica, where he drolly intones against penguins, the rules of civilization, soft-headed tree huggers, and anything else that gives us a cute, false, romantic view of Nature in all its terrible, savage glory. And you know what? Herzog said that all before, and said it better, in Grizzly Man, which had the specificity of one fascinatingly deluded subject (Timothy Treadwell) and his sad, unforgettable story. But if the recent SIFF favorite Encounters is a softer, gentler, more comic film, with Herzog as the dour tour guide who claims to despise everything (even when you suspect he doesn't), it's a very enjoyable bizarro-world version of the Discovery Channel. Herzog seeks to banish or overcome everything that's safe, sensible, and sanitized. Yet even as he vows not to make a film about penguins, that's just what he does—finding the solitary madman (mad penguin?) among the identical flock. The endearingly contrarian, curmudgeonly Uncle Werner presents himself as an antipodal Al Gore, declaring "Our presence on this planet does not seem to be sustainable." Only he says it like that's a good thing.
Herzog (at left) likes what he sees: no people.
Runs at Varsity, Fri., July 11–Thurs., July 17. Rated G. 112 minutes.