Judge Patrick Rogers is the son and the heir of nothing in particular.
"This landmark eight-part series is a breathtaking celebration of the amazing, complex, profound, and sometimes challenging relationship between humankind and nature."
BBC Earth has separated its products from the plethora of nature documentaries that have proliferated this HD era. Both Planet Earth and Life explored the various regions and eco systems of our planet and how animals and insects have adapted to them. The format was simple yet the results were astoundingly well produced and highly engaging but also educational. It made me feel depressed thinking back on all the horribly dry and boring nature documentaries we watched back in school. Whoever said these things can't be educational and fun?
Luckily, BBC American is back with Human Planet, a series that retains the format of the previous two series but instead chooses to focus on how us humans have adapted, struggled and thrived in the various regions of the planet. The show is humbling, astounding and incredibly thought provoking…many times all at once. What gives this show its true emotional wallop is the subject matter: exploring the human condition through the perspective of many cultures, ideologies and regions. However, the thread connecting these various people and their struggles is the spirit of the human will to survive. It's very rich subject matter to explore, and while volumes and volumes of philosophical texts could never scratch the surface, let alone a miniseries, Human Planet swings for the fences and constantly knocks it out of the park.
• "Oceans: Into The Blue"
• "Desert: Life in the Furnace"
• "Arctic: Life in the Deep Freeze"
• "Jungles: People of the Trees"
This segment is utterly astounding as we watch this tribe haul up building material hundreds upon hundreds of feet in the air to build a house that spits in the face of God. The higher the house, the bigger the boasting rights. You're also far too high for those Lovecraftian horrors to get you, so that's a plus. This culture has evolved and adapted so well to their environment that they climb and balance on top of trees as if they were born there. And I guess, in a way, they were. It's another example of what separates Human Planet among other, similar shows in the way that it wants to explore both how cultures adapt to their surroundings, but also what compels them to stay and thrive. Part a will to survive, part massive balls of steel and a large chunk of maintaining and heralding tradition in the face of cultural erosion brought about by modernization and globalization. These are but a few motifs running throughout both the episode and the series as a whole.
• "Mountains: Life in thin Air"
• "Grasslands: The Roots of Power"
• "Rivers: Friend and Foe"
• "Cities: Surviving the Urban Jungle"
As this review goes on you probably notice a recurring motif with comparing the struggles of these cultures with my own mundane, capitalistic life in rural New England. And really, that's what this show comes down to and is what makes it so humbling. It's almost impossible not to contrast your own struggles and desires with the people detailed in Human Planet because the series compels you to see a side of the human condition and nature that we are oblivious to most days of the week. Though the series details vastly divergent and varied cultures, there is still an underlying and unifying sense of humanism throughout the show to remind us that we are in fact the human race. This ability to educate, inform, entertain, enlighten and humble is a testament to the quality of this series and the care, passion and desire to inspire that went into its creation on all fronts. Human Planet is truly magnificent.
Strangely, and unlike both Planet Earth and Life which had almost all episodes in a 1080p HD video transfer, this presentation instead has a 1080i HD video transfer. While this is not a huge issue, the image falls short of what we've already seen from BBC Earth…just barely. There's a certain softness, a very subtle one, in certain episodes and specifically in certain scenes. It's a small gripe considering that the image is still incredibly sharp and does an amazing job at reproducing the wide range of vivid colors and textures of the series as a whole. You know what to expect from the picture quality of these shows. I could talk all day about how you can make out freckles and individual bird feathers, or each grain of sand in a dune, but I'd just be stringing together a bunch of adjectives to state something that's already a given.
The English DTS-HD Master 5.1 track heightens the onscreen image with a very faithful recreation of these environmental soundscapes. It's truly a stellar and highly immersive track. It's also the sexiest you'll probably ever hear John Hurt (Alien) sound.
The only special features are 10 minute "Behind The Lens" segments that automatically proceed each episode with an additional two as actual special features. These features are very informative and interesting as they detail the behind-the-scenes work needed to capture some of these segments and the difficulty in getting certain shots just right. Some may gripe about a lack of bonus material, but these ten minute segments are all that's really wanted or desired from a series that's already laid it all out on the table with the episodes themselves.
Human Planet is a stellar series that's been given an even more impressive Blu-ray release. For anyone looking for an engaging and informative documentary series that's also entertaining, this is certainly it.
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Studio: BBC Video
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