Planet Earth

"Essential"

Planet Earth Review


Discussing the BBC series Planet Earth without resorting to some form of hyperbole is a fairly impossible task. To do anything less would seem to diminish somehow the true scope of its overwhelming achievement. But to oversell it also seems to be a disservice as this is at heart another nature documentary, albeit one of singular beauty. The best description necessitates the borrowing of a phrase from Douglas Adams. Planet Earth could be, when all is said and done, nothing less than the last chance to see the wonders of the natural world (animal, vegetable, and mineral) before they are irrevocably changed or gone.

Planet Earth is 11 episodes of eye-popping beauty specifically engineered for high-definition sets, the sort of thing that one watches to justify buying that high-end in-home theater system. Each episode takes a God's eye approach (the voice of God being, of course, David Attenborough) toward its particular corner of the earth, whether it's deserts, mountains, or the deepest and darkest crevices of the oceans. Instead of the expected scientist-as-guide approach (Attenborough creeping through the jungle in a safari jacket, pointing out intriguing fauna), Planet Earth has a more subdued tone, letting nature work its magic instead of haranguing the viewer into obeisance. When Attenborough does speak, it is with a calmly intelligent voice that identifies the viewers as being just one more species on the pale blue dot. In the "Mountains" episode, amidst the soaring peaks, the narration reminds humans of their insignificance: "We can be only visitors here."

In fact, it's reminders like that which help keep Planet Earth from being a particularly well-photographed slice of nature porn, a genre it can't help but resemble at times. There are only so many unbelievable vistas of desert (the sand dunes' knife-like edges so precise they appear computer-generated) or sky-filling flocks of migratory birds or bats that one can withstand before slipping into a sort of passive, slack-jawed astonishment. At times, the show is a near-constant flow of epic imagery (the show must have employed its own private helicopter fleet to accomplish it all).But it also remembers to focus on the small and seemingly insignificant, like the strangely comic bird of paradise in New Guinea, which attracts mates by performing a spastic dance and displaying a giant smiley-face mask of feathers.

It wouldn't be a nature show, of course, without predators, and Planet Earth doesn't disappoint in that respect, either. The soundtrack's orchestral swells change to a more martial pounding of drums as a pride of lions take down an elephant or the rare and jackal-like African hunting dogs go after impala with the fluid precision of a crack Special Forces unit. While there are some expected stars here, such as the frankly astounding slow-motion footage of great white sharks hunting seals, others are less so, like the raiding party of Ugandan chimpanzees who assault a neighboring community and even eat one of their victims.

Tied in with all the sweeping landscapes and heart-pounding chases is a taut thread of a reminder about the fragility of everything on display. Too many nature shows exist in a kind of vacuum, where the animals surveyed are rendered as things unto themselves living in a static environment. But this show presents the planet as much more of a fluid place, where animals are almost always on the move, traversing from one isolated pod of green, fresh water, and plenty to the next, with deserts of sand, snow, and nutrient-poor saltwater in between. In Planet Earth, the world is shown as being much as it always has been, with humans an essentially nonexistent creature, making only the occasional cameos as mountain climbers or pilots of deep-sea vessels needed to explore the oceans. When one watches the agonizing struggle of a starving polar bear struggling from one melting ice floe to the next, later frantically and futilely attacking a herd of massive walruses, the impact of mankind on these animals speaks for itself.

On the DVD release of Planet Earth -- which should be considered one of those essential purchases, particularly as part of the gargantuan 17-disc Natural History Collection, also including the Attenborough-hosted The Blue Planet, The Life of Mammals, and The Life of Birds -- the environmental issue is addressed forthrightly on a three-episode coda titled "The Future." After letting viewers wallow in the majesty of their planet for hours and hours, this disc then provides the reality-check of wilderness as "immense, mysterious, and disappearing." Instead of a standalone series, the "Future" episodes actually use the Planet Earth crew's experiences as its linking point, discussing at length how the shooting of the series gave its makers a view to exactly how damaged the planet was as they traveled around it and were told by scientist after scientist how one species after another was disappearing or "crashing."

While its ending notes may be those of possible catastrophe, Planet Earth can't be anything but hopeful, as really less a nature show than a series of snapshots of reasons to live.

News on the march.



Planet Earth

Facts and Figures

Run time: 570 mins

In Theaters: Sunday 25th March 2007

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 5 / 5

IMDB: 9.5 / 10

Cast & Crew

Director: Alastair Fothergill

Producer: Maureen Lemire, Shannon Malone, Vanessa Berlowitz, Alastair Fothergill

Starring: as Narrator

Contactmusic


Links



Advertisement

New Movies

Imperium Movie Review

Imperium Movie Review

First-time filmmaker Daniel Ragussis takes an unusual approach to this thriller. Since it's based on...

The Girl With All the Gifts Movie Review

The Girl With All the Gifts Movie Review

Like a 10-years-later follow-up to 28 Days Later, this small British thriller takes a refreshingly...

The Magnificent Seven Movie Review

The Magnificent Seven Movie Review

Director Antoine Fuqua brings his usual fascination with violence to this remake of the iconic...

Bridget Jones's Baby Movie Review

Bridget Jones's Baby Movie Review

As it's been 12 years since the last Bridget Jones movie, expectations aren't too high...

The Beatles: Eight Days a Week - The Touring Years Movie Review

The Beatles: Eight Days a Week - The Touring Years Movie Review

A-list director Ron Howard worked with the surviving Beatles to assemble this engaging documentary, which...

Blair Witch Movie Review

Blair Witch Movie Review

It's been 17 years since The Blair Witch Project shook up the cinema and created...

Anthropoid Movie Review

Anthropoid Movie Review

Outside the Czech Republic, few people know about Operation Anthropoid, a spy mission in 1943...

Advertisement
Kubo and the Two Strings Movie Review

Kubo and the Two Strings Movie Review

From Laika (The Boxtrolls), this is one of the most beautiful, sophisticated animated films in...

Captain Fantastic Movie Review

Captain Fantastic Movie Review

An offbeat comedy-drama with a timely kick, this charming family road trip takes on some...

Hell or High Water Movie Review

Hell or High Water Movie Review

Sicario screenwriter Taylor Sheridan delivers another fiercely intelligent, engaging story that maintains high suspense while...

The 9th Life of Louis Drax Movie Review

The 9th Life of Louis Drax Movie Review

With heavy overtones of Hitchcockian mystery and intrigue, this stylish thriller is the enjoyably melodramatic...

Kickboxer: Vengeance Movie Review

Kickboxer: Vengeance Movie Review

The 1989 Muay Thai action movie Kickboxer starred a young Jean-Claude Van Damme, who pops...

Julieta Movie Review

Julieta Movie Review

Iconic Spanish filmmaker Pedro Almodovar is back with another powerfully complex female-centred drama, along the...

Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping Movie Review

Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping Movie Review

An astute satire of the pop music business, this raucous mock-documentary is consistently hilarious from...

Advertisement
Artists
Actors
    Filmmakers
      Artists
      Bands
        Musicians
          Artists
          Celebrities
             
              Artists
              Interviews
                musicians & bands in the news
                  actors & filmmakers in the news
                    celebrities in the news

                      Go Back in Time using our News archive to see what happened on a particular day in the past.