You probably know actor Michael B. Jordan as the star of the Creed franchise or as Black Pantherthe antihero. But this year, the Sexiest Man Alive (according to People magazine) has ventured into new territory: nature documentaries. And honestly? We are here for that.
Following in the footsteps of famous storytellers like Morgan Freeman and Sigourney Weaver, Jordan is the voice of America the BEAUTIFUL, a six-part series from National Geographic about the fauna and (occasionally) flora of North America that began streaming this month on Disney+. The show features stunning aerial footage of dramatic landscapes and cloud formations (some of which were captured by cameras attached to fighter jets) and incredibly close looks at creatures foraging for food and hunting prey. The footage is incredible, but we love Jordan’s endearing narration most of all.
America the BEAUTIFUL It’s not a particularly innovative show, but it’s okay. It captures the previously undocumented behaviors of multiple animals, from the elusive Grand Canyon cougars to the nation’s smallest toad. The final episode focuses refreshingly on conservation groups trying to protect threatened habitats. But there is a strong dose of American exceptionalism in the series. Animals are framed as “American heroes,” or icons or legends, throughout the series, which can feel a bit on the nose. (Not to be that Typebut so-called heroism is just physiological and behavioral adaptations of creatures to their particular environment).
Jordan, with an American voice as recognizable as anyone’s, pulls off the hero theme better than most. But the most charming moments of him as a narrator come when he poses as a creature and, specifically, when he comments on his mating habits. He’s made all the more charming by the fact that, unlike beloved nature series host David Attenborough, you don’t get the sense that he spends a lot of time talking about the migratory patterns of gray whales or the hunting practices of gray whales. the crocodiles. His seriousness draws you right in.
Below are my five favorite moments from Hollywood A-lister storytelling from America the BEAUTIFUL:
His Red Squirrel Impersonation (Episode 1)
The first bug we found in America the BEAUTIFUL is a red squirrel in Wyoming’s Teton Range, chomping on pinecones and avoiding larger predators. As viewers, it’s our first taste of Jordan’s storytelling. He begins by sharing the kind of information about red squirrels that one would expect from a nature document (what they eat, where they live, their predators). But Jordan cuts him off with many sympathetic comments (“Yes, it’s small. But trust me, size isn’t everything!” (hide pineapple). Jordan keeps it just as light-hearted and fun throughout the rest of the show.
Every time explaining the mating behaviors of a species (episodes 1 to 5)
Many species perform their most outrageous and dramatic behaviors when it comes time to attract a mate, and Jordan strikes the perfect balance of “Um, what?” and “Worthy adult who will not laugh”. He gives a male hummingbird accessories for his iridescent purple throat feathers (“He’s throwing some cool shapes!”) and describes the culmination of the alligator’s courtship as “foreplay, reptilian style.” Jordan dispels any awkwardness or awkwardness, sometimes leaning into her, and makes the strange accessible.
His pronunciation of “Marmot” (Episode 3)
Jordan calls the plump rodents that play, fight, and eat wildflowers on the slopes of Mount Rainier “sea-MOTs” instead of “MAR-mots.” It’s really endearing.
His comic timing describing a red fox on the hunt (Episode 5)
Knowing when to keep quiet is critical to good nature documentary storytelling and, well, have you ever seen a red fox hunt in the snow? They jump high and dive straight down, diving headfirst into snowdrifts, their tails and hind legs sticking out clumsily. It’s pretty fun. At the end of a mostly silent hunting sequence, during which no narration could match the spectacle of the diving foxes, Jordan says, deadpan, “A little cunning goes a long way.” While foxes are undeniably cunning, they don’t seem so; and whether or not it was meant to be tongue controlled, I was laughing.
When he brings out a pun with bears (Episode 2)
On the screen, it’s spring. Bears young and old eagerly rub against tree trunks in the wetlands of the southeastern US to thin out their thick coats before the high temperatures of summer arrive. Otherwise, it would be too hot for bears or, as Jordan jokes, “unbearable.” It could be that I’m just a pun fanatic, but a little irreverence can go a long way.