BBC Video // 2006 // 500 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Patrick Naugle // October 15th, 2011
Nature: up close and personal.
One of the most compelling documentaries in the past twenty five years, Britain's Planet Earth allowed viewers a glimpse into their world in a way they'd never experienced before. Animals and nature came alive with vibrancy as viewers witnessed sights never caught on camera before. It was a truly spectacular overseas treat. Now Planet Earth is back in a brand new six-disc special edition, presented by BBC Video.
A message from the owners of The Universe (localized to our own galaxy):
"Welcome to your planet. We hope you enjoy your stay! To your left you will see Africa, home to some of the most amazing animals in the world including giraffes the size of buildings and lions strong enough to eat your family for dinner and your cousins as leftovers. On your right you'll notice some of the deepest oceans on earth, each one teeming with a vibrant and sometimes terrifying assortment of creatures! Please don't touch any of the animals as they will sting, maim, bite and kill. As you wander around your planet please make sure to take a moment and notice all of the interesting points-of-interest available, including caves, worlds filled with ice and snow, vastly tall mountains and bone dry deserts. When exiting planet earth, please make sure to leave all of your belongings behind; they are not allowed during your final destination. We want to thank you for visiting your planet and hope you'll come again soon, depending on if reincarnation exists."
Planet Earth is truly a spectacle. When it raised the bar for nature documentaries, it raised it past the clouds and far, far into the stratosphere and into outer space (which, ironically enough, is the only area not touched upon during its lengthy runtime). The show itself doesn't have a traditional 'narrative'; narrator David Attenborough (brother of famed actor/filmmaker Richard Attenborough) takes us through some of the planet's most amazing features and landscapes, not to mention her wildlife spanning multiple continents. There is a lot to see here and both adults and children will marvel at some of the coolest animals this side of the equator.
In fact, if I could recommend any title on Blu-ray to children, Planet Earth just might be it. Children seem naturally drawn to animals and nature, and there's plenty to see here -- from playful otters to wintry polar bears to sharks circling the depths of the oceans and majestic lions...almost nothing feels left out in this program. That being said, it should be noted that there is some realistic animal 'violence' during the runtime (such as crocodiles taking down their prey), so little ones may get scared when they watch certain species become a smorgasbord for another species.
The nature footage is amazingly captured. Many scenes take place under the ocean, in the skies or around rocky terrain. I have the utmost respect for the filmmakers who braved the elements to capture these images. Some of the creatures and wildlife in this show look downright terrifying, which makes me wonder how nerve-wracking it was to be one of the camera operators for this film. My favorite segments have to do with the ocean and everything living underneath it's calm exterior. I'm a sucker for undersea life and all the beauty and horror that it holds. During one part of the film a submarine explores over two miles below the surface and finds some fascinatingly strange oddities: albino shrimp, bizarre jellyfish and colonies of strange creatures that scrounge the sea floor for any signs of food.
My only quibble with Planet Earth is that it sometimes gets a little long in the tooth. At over eight hours, it takes a real commitment to get through the entire series. While the film is filled with real highlights of nature, there are moments that are, shall we say, not quite too enthralling. Don't expect a story or plot here -- it's mostly just watching nature take its course. Then again, not long ago Disney re-cut, re-edited and re-hashed Planet Earth into DisneyNature: Earth (how can you slap your name on something you didn't even make?) and the results were mixed -- some good footage but an overall disappointment. All of that to say that maybe this kind of project requires a lengthy run time. This special edition of Planet Earth stands heads and shoulders above the Disney release and is well worth the price tag (around $60 dollars) if you haven't had the chance to see it yet.
Planet Earth (Blu-ray) Special Edition is presented in 1.78:1/1080i high definition widescreen. While it's a bit of a mystery why this is presented in 1080i instead of 1080p, viewers still get a very attractive looking transfer. BBC has done a fantastic job on this program and the colors and images practically pop off the screen. The depth here is awesome -- there are so many moments that captivate even when narration or music is absent. The oceans are as blue as forests are green, and the whole thing is just excellent. Aside of a few minor quibbles, I don't have a lot of negative comments to make about this picture.
The soundtrack is presented in DTS-HD 5.1 in English. This soundtrack offers a nice mix of sound effects, music and narration that never overwhelms the viewer. The mix kicks in often, especially during tense moments in the jungle or among the more aggressive predators. That being said, this isn't an earth-shattering mix; there are many moments where, aside of Attenborough's narration, it's quiet (sometimes with a hint of ambient background noises). Overall it's an effective mix that gets the job done. Also included on this set are English, French and Spanish subtitles.
Planet Earth (Blu-ray) Special Edition may feel like a quickie cash grab -- the original box set wasn't realized that long ago -- but this does include a few new extra features. The most substantial are four new bonus programs: "Great Planet Earth Moments," "Snow Leopard: Beyond Myth," "Secrets of the Maya Underground" and "Elephant Nomads of the Namib Desert." Each of these programs offers the viewer a glimpse into a new topic not covered in the original Planet Earth program. Of the new segments I was most interested in "Snow Leopard: Beyond the Myth" which touches upon the majesty and mystery of these deadly but graceful cats. Also included on this set is a sneak peek at the upcoming "Frozen Planet," commentary tracks with various producers (included on "Pole to Pole," Mountains," "Caves," "Great Plains"), an option that allows the viewer to watch the film with a 'music only' soundtrack spread out over the entire set, eleven various production diaries, and a featurette titled "Planet Earth: The Future" dealing with -- duh -- the future of our planet and what we can do to save it.
If you already own Planet Earth, this upgrade isn't a requirement. For first-time buyers, this may be the best choice.
Review content copyright © 2011 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)
* English (SDH)
Running Time: 500 Minutes
Release Year: 2006
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Bonus Episodes
* Production Diaries
* Music Only Option