Pity the penguin. Darling of the animal world in the wake of March of the Penguins’ success in 2005, penguin fever quickly begat penguin fatigue. First, the film’s makers went and accepted their Oscar for best documentary carrying penguin stuffed animals. Then Hollywood inundated the market with penguin-centric films including Happy Feet, Surf’s Up, and Farce of the Penguins. The story of adorable birds with strong familial bonds on the desolate Antarctic landscape was universally appealing. But, as with most things adorable, enough finally became enough.

This is probably why Werner Herzog opens his new documentary, Encounters at the End of the World, with a caveat: If the U.S. National Science Foundation — which sent Herzog to Antarctica — had been expecting a penguin film, it would be sorely disappointed.

Understandable. March represented much of what have historically… More…