“Breaking Boundaries: The Science of Our Planet” is a documentary about the end of the world. It focuses on nine planetary thresholds, outlined by the Swedish scientist and environmental science professor Johan Rockstrom, which, if exceeded, life on Earth will no longer be sustainable. Narrated by Sir David Attenborough, the perennial voice of the British nature doc, “Breaking Boundaries” is brimming with grim scientific insight and urgent cautionary pronouncements, but its style feels fussy and belabored — as if the end of the world were not dramatic enough. It’s hard to concentrate on land composition and vanishing biodiversity amid the barrage of bizarre visual effects and histrionic music.
Streaming on Netflix, Jon Clay’s film presents a variety of credible talking heads to explain such matters as the history of the Anthropocene and the importance of the biosphere, with an emphasis on the dangers facing our planet beyond global warming. To accentuate the seriousness of the situation, these experts lean hard on metaphors — we hear a lot about falling dominoes, tipping points, danger zones, runaway trains, open windows, the sides of coins and, most whimsically, “planetary friends and planetary foes.”
The movie visualizes these metaphors tritely, for instance by cutting to a moody shot of a window being shut, and relies extensively on an elaborate C.G.I. visual of featureless humans walking on color-coded pathways, which looks like a commercial for pain-relief medication and to which the film returns constantly, to laughable effect. “Breaking Boundaries” may have interesting — even critical — information to convey about the future of our species and the fate of the planet. But the form is so insane that the message is nearly lost in the muddle.
Breaking Boundaries: The Science of Our Planet
Not rated. Running time: 1 hour 13 minutes. Watch on Netflix.