BBC Video // 2011 // 350 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Patrick Naugle // April 7th, 2012
Explore your world.
The BBC has taken viewers all over the globe to witness sights unseen with their massive documentary Planet Earth. Now they take fans into some of the coldest, harshest climates on earth, as they explore the North and South Poles in Frozen Planet, available on Blu-ray care of BBC Earth!
The harsh climate of the Arctic and Antarctic is home to thousands of species, each trying to survive whipping windstorms, frigid cold temperatures, and tons of densely packed snow. In Frozen Planet, the BBC offers a glimpse of a world hardly ever seen by human eyes: polar bears, emperor penguins, killer whales, elephant seals, and more are shown in their natural habitats trying to survive what often feels like a perpetually permanent winter.
The creators of Planet Earth set the bar very, very high with their sprawling, dense documentary that took a look at our world and the mammals, fish ,and birds that live on it. This was truly a spectacle in every sense of the word; seeing the program in high definition you were able to get up close and personal with some of nature's most amazing and dangerous creatures, all from the safety of your home. The movie spanned all regions and continents; tropical, frozen, dry, wet, and everything in-between. Seriously, how can anyone top that?
The answer is, they can't. However, BBC Earth has given it a noble try with Frozen Planet, a wonderfully thrilling epic that takes a look at the Arctic and Antarctic, two of the greatest and least explored wildernesses on earth. Although this much shorter documentary feature isn't quite as expansive or thrilling as the original series, Frozen Planet is still filled with enough moments of awe-inspiring amazement to make it worth your while.
Frozen Planet is split up into four sections/seasons (summer, spring, autumn, winter) and offers four hours of seals mating, penguins fighting, plant life surviving, and birds trying to find their way into the ocean. Oh yeah, and it's got a ZOMBIE CATERPILLER! No, seriously...it's actually got a reanimated zombie caterpillar. One of the coolest segments focuses on a creature who spends fourteen years growing, eating, then being frozen solid for months on end, only to reemerge and start the cycle all over again (and eventually becoming a beautiful moth). The fact that an insect can essentially die for that long of a period and come back to life speaks to how little we know about how Mother Nature really operates.
As our friend the caterpillar will tell you, existing in such harsh conditions isn't easy, as we see over and over again. A polar bear looking for food among a nest of birds is suddenly bombed by razor sharp beaks. Penguins must protect themselves at a moments notice against killer whales on the hunt both beneath and on top the ice. The albatross, a bird with one of the largest wingspans on earth, is worthless on land and must fight gale storm winds to fly out to the ocean (where it won't touch down on land again for many years). If anything can be gleaned from Frozen Planet it's that the Arctic and the Antarctic are tough places to thrive and survive.
I found Frozen Planet to be a lot of fun. Watching large snout elephant seals battle over their mates has to be one of the most frightening and thunderous experiences ever caught on tape (imagine a couple of four ton sumo wrestlers, except biting and slashing at each other). Many of the animals live in harmony while being at odds with each other; wolves struggle to find food, and when they do their efforts are often in vein as the oxen band together to take down the wolves. I'm in awe of the filmmakers battling such conditions so they can capture such awesome spectacles.
I also enjoyed watching some short segments dealing with the filmmakers and the often horrendous conditions they faced as they tried to get the footage needed to make this documentary. At one point, the crew is trapped for four days inside their small, flimsy shanty (imagine a crappy looking trailer home) as 120 MPH winds slam rocks and debris all over their camp. What was the filmmaker's most fervent prayers? That the camera equipment would still be there when the storm was over (otherwise, they were heading home). While Frozen Planet is an exciting documentary, there's a whole other movie ready to be made about the challenges and obstacles the filmmakers faced making it.
If I have one complaint, it's that there are moments where I couldn't tell if what we are seeing is actual footage or computer generated imagery. Certainly the animal footage is 100% real, but a few of the scene transitions (as when the snow melts, revealing flowers and plant life underneath it) look like they were being digitally manipulated. If that's the case, it seems to go against the idea of Frozen Planet being a pure form documentary.
But I digress. Frozen Planet is a thrilling adventure that kids will eat up and adults will find enthralling. At four hours in length, there's a lot to absorb. If you don't walk away with a newfound sense of respect for nature, you deserve to be eaten by bloodthirsty polar bears.
Frozen Planet is presented in high definition 1.78:1/1080i widescreen, and the images captured are just beautiful. There are moments when you'll feel you can truly reach out and touch some of the animals and landscapes on the screen. Much of the film takes place in the blisteringly white snow covered mountains, though other moments feature lush fields when the snow has melted. BBC Earth has done a wonderful job of making sure this image is bright, clean, and pleasing to the eye.
Much like the video portion, this DTS-HD 5.1 audio mix is excellent. There are a lot of surround effects, especially when the filmmakers get up close and personal with some of the bears and penguins. I loved hearing the crunching of the snow underneath their feet and the various mating calls. A very good mix that puts you right in the middle of nature!
Frozen Planet includes the following extra feautures: "Freeze Frame: Seven Making-Of Featurettes" at the end of every episode, "Science at the End of the Earth" featurettte, forty seven production featurettes, a greatest hits (as it were) called "Frozen Planet: Epic Journey," and a music-only viewing option.
Frozen Planet is a breathtaking odyssey that offers viewers a sneak peak at a part of our planet most people will never have the chance to experience firsthand. This is a wonderful release from BBC Earth; those who love nature or the adventure of the outdoors will find it indispensable.
Frozen Planet is well worth any documentary fanatics' time.
Review content copyright © 2012 Patrick Naugle; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: BBC Video
* 1.78:1 Non-Anamorphic (1080i)
* DTS HD 5.1 Master Audio (English)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (French)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (French, Canadian)
* English (SDH)
* French (Canadian)
Running Time: 350 Minutes
Release Year: 2011
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Production Diaries
* Isolated Score
* Official Site