Friday, January 1, 2010


Every once in a while a series on the natural world comes along that is immense and captivating in its scope that it easily creates wonderment and genuine awe, leaving the viewer both dumbstruck with admiration and enriched by the experience.

Such a series is the BBC's Planet Earth (2006) - a comprehensive globetrotting trek across the remotest tundra, deserts, rain forest and polar ice caps that comprise our small planet. Through 11 one hour segments narrated by David Attenborough, Planet Earth sweeps across the vast untouched and narrowly forgotten resources of our globe - exposing the rare, exotic, bizarre and dangerousness of raw, unchartered nature in all its near mythological glories.

The winner of 4 Prime Time Emmys and other awards, Planet Earth is a dazzling assemblage of primal eruptions to behold. Employing more than 40 cameras to 200 exotic destinations circling the globe, from the comfort of our couches we are witness to the poetic desolation of the Arctic Circles and blistering deserts; travel deep into the bowels of the earth to uncover a glittering undercarriage of nocturnal activities from predators who have never seen the sun; sail high atop the most dangerous peaks and mountain ranges that have claimed both animal and human travelers alike, and finally, splash down below the estranged realms of underwater coral where sea monsters of all shapes and sizes continue to rummage and ravage open waters.

Perhaps not wanting to overtax our senses, the narrative by Attenborough is scant on all but the most captivating details, allowing instead the images to speak for themselves. George Fenton's momentous scoring of each episode provides the most grand and solitary of backdrops for this excursion, perfectly anchoring Andrew Shillabee's starkly poetic and haunting cinematography to a surreal patina. In the U.S. Attenborough's whimsical narration was inexplicably replaced with a less inspired commentary track by Sigourney Weaver. Thankfully, the BBC Video's new Blu-Ray compendium has restored Attenborough's voice over.

The series is divided into 11 segments; Pole to Pole is a brief cook's tour of all the places the series intends to visit in further depth elsewhere. Beginning with 'Mountains' the viewer is taken on a sublime aerial bypass of the most isolated caps, peaks and craggy rock formations studding the globe. Next up is an exploration of Fresh Waters' , 'Caves', then Deserts and Ice Worlds - the latter exploring the haunting solitary regions most isolated from mankind. From the 'Great Plains' and 'Jungles' the series moves below the water line with 'Shallow Seas' concluding its exploration with 'Seasonal Forests' and a journey to the 'Deep Ocean'.

Running approximately 550 minutes, Planet Earth is the ultimate rush for the natural explorer. In an age ravaged by an overwhelming amount of microcosmic examination of our own small contribution to this planet's development, Planet Earth retreats to the remotest areas where true evolution is not only exhilaratingly on the move but ever present.

BBC Home Video's presentation of Planet Earth on Blu-Ray is - in one word - breathtaking. The 1080p image is near flawless - the one exception remains during those rare instances where hi-def cameras could not be employed to capture the images presented to us. Colors are rich and vibrant. Fine details are evident throughout. The lushness of greens and blues is truly stunning. Contrast levels have been superbly rendered. The audio has been viscerally captured in Dolby Digital 5.1.

Truly, this documentary series belongs on everyone's top shelf and should be required viewing for geography classes in high schools across the world.

Highly recommended!

FILM RATING (out of 5 - 5 being the best)



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