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Case Number 18809: Small Claims Court

Buy Canyonlands at Amazon


National Geographic // 2009 // 50 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Appellate Judge James A. Stewart (Retired) // April 30th, 2010

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All Rise...

Appellate Judge James A. Stewart is going barefoot. He doesn't want to destroy cyanobacteria.

The Charge

"To find life in Canyonlands, you have to search for it."

The Case

Chances are, you've never thought about the cyanobacteria destroyed by each footstep off the path at a national park. However, scientists at Canyonlands National Park in Utah have, and they're looking for ways to save those little guys, as well as the mites and tadpole shrimp that live in potholes. "A single footprint can wipe out several hundred years of growth," the narration says during Canyonlands, a National Geographic Channel look at the park and the work of researchers inside it.

The park is, as you'd guess, a lot of canyons. Theories as to the formation of the Upheaval Dome, one of the park's landmarks, include the squeezing of a giant toothpaste tube of salt. Since this is the most interesting scientific theory I've heard in a while, I'll go with it, especially when it's introduced through a neat animated graphic. Canyonlands has a few of those, but it mostly consists of footage shot while following photographers and experts on their tasks, which include studies of bighorn sheep, the flaking pigment on ancient rock wall "art galleries," and an abandoned cowboy camp.

As you'd expect for a recent special from National Geographic Channel, the picture and cinematography are excellent, making the park look like so much more than just a pile of rocks. Extras include two segments from Wild Chronicles, a TV series produced by National Geographic. These concern the tracking of Colorado mountain lions, and Spring at the Yellowstone River.

I liked Canyonlands, but the 50-minute documentary is too short, especially for $24.95. It doesn't leave time for much on the history of the park, concentrating on the modern-day scientists instead of providing a larger portrait. Extras more closely related to the main documentary topic would have made for a more valuable viewing package.

The Verdict

Canyonlands isn't guilty, but National Geographic should give DVD buyers more for their money.

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Scales of Justice

Judgment: 90

Perp Profile

Studio: National Geographic
Video Formats:
• 1.78:1 Anamorphic
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
• English (SDH)
Running Time: 50 Minutes
Release Year: 2009
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
• Documentary
• Television

Distinguishing Marks

• Bonus Segments


• None

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