Planet Earth : Limited Edition Blu-ray
Cast - David Attenborough
Country of Origin - U.K.
Discs - 1
MSRP - $24.98
Distributor - BBC Home Video
Reviewer - Scott MacDonald
The Series (4.5/5)
I have never been a fan of nature documentaries. I'll be up front with that, so when I got a Blu-ray player, I heard of how beautiful Planet Earth was, but I passed. I figured it would be like every other nature doc I had ever seen, and thus wouldn't interest me. I was completely, and utterly wrong. It does have similarities, but there is something in the DNA of Planet Earth that makes it completely hypnotic, and endlessly compelling.
The film plays off with a normal nature documentary, but rather then feeling like an evolutionary step up from them. It feels like it's the next logical step from Godfrey Reggio's Qaatsi Cycle (Koyaanisqaatsi, Pawaqqatso, Naqoyqatsi), and Werner Herzog's non-linear films such as Fata Morgana and Lessons of Darkness. The only difference is these 11 episodes have a specific narrative running through each of them, and a much greater polish than those predecessors.
As I said each episode of Planet Earth has a specific theme such as Caves, Fresh Water, and Desert, however the makers of the documentary are not content to stay in one location for the duration of the episode, and show the scope of the subject worldwide. This allows you to see the changes in the terrain they are displaying from the guano and cockroach filled caves in South America to the beautiful Lechuguilla Cave in New Mexico that is covered wall to wall with gypsum crystals.
I will say that Planet Earth is not exactly deep, but for a guy like me that was perfect. The information to show, and inform me of things that I was not aware of, and then get on to something else. And while I have heard complaints about this streamlining elsewhere, I felt that it worked fine considering that they only had eleven 45 minute episodes to cover everything they wanted to fit in, and going any deeper would have doubled that, and would have potentially destroyed the excellent flow of the series.
If you, like me, have never seen Planet Earth before. You are in for a visual stunner of a series, and this is where the series gets it's highest marks. This series had the highest budget of any documentary film series ever, and every bit of it shows onscreen. Apparently, the crew created a new type of camera and rig, so that they can get smoother shots from further distances, and this shows.
The sheer visual quality of this documentary, and I don't mean the Blu-ray, but the documentary itself is pure spectacle. There is a moment in the 2nd or 3rd episode where the crew get footage of a family of snow leopards up in the Himalayas. These creatures have (to the best of my knowledge) never been filmed in the wild before, and here they are in their habitat running smoothly over the jagged mountain peaks in the middle of a heavy snowstorm in what may be one of the most beautifully shot sequences I have ever seen in any film or TV show ever.
And although the documentary informs the viewer like all good documentaries are supposed to do, I found myself frequently drawn in by, and completely floored by the immensity, and beauty of the cinematography on display. It became such an overwhelming experience that my 10 year old daughter eventually sarcastically chimed in during one particular mountain top sequence (and I'm paraphrasing) "Yes, Dad it looks amazing, can you please stop asking?"
Although, I will say the sheer visual is what drew me in, and kept me in my place for the duration, I will say that each episode offers such scope of our planet that it feels like it's primary purpose is to enlighten the viewer to the true beauty, and variety of our planet and it's various landscapes. It's hard to picture the epicness of our world, when you only see such a small portion, and Planet Earth at it's best really opens up our planet in a most enchanting and beautiful way.
Planet Earth as I said in my review is an absolute visual spectacle, and the visual quality of the Blu-ray really backs that up. Planet Earth: Special Edition is presented with an absolutely glorious 1:78:1 1080i AVC encoded transfer, and just calling it an amazing transfer would be selling it short.
If you have a Blu-ray player, and an HDTV, there is no reason not to own this release. I have been collecting Blu's since 2009, and this may be the best looking set of Blu-ray's I have seen up until this point. The colors really pop off the screen, the black levels where applicable are deep, and the level of detail is absolutely stunning.
The Audio is presented in a 5.1 DTS-HD English track with optional Subtitles in English, French, and Spanish. The audio is absolutely fantastic, and really give off the subtle nuances of the nature sounds on display. The narration by David Attenbourough is completely audible throughout, and I did not hear any aural anomalies such as pops, hissing, cracks, or scratching on the track. A truly immersive audio experience.
BBC/2 Entertain have loaded up the Planet Earth: Special Edition Blu-ray with extras. The disc kicks off with 5 commentary tracks on selected episodes with the shows producer. The episodes that feature commentaries are Pole to Pole, Mountains, Caves, Great Plains, and Shallow Seas. We then having a music only viewing option, which effectively turns the Planet Earth experience into something akin to a musical screen saver. I tried watching it, and as much as I love the score, I quickly found myself missing the narration. We then have Planet Earth Diaries, 10 minute mini-sodes that add additional bits to each episode. We then have an 11 minute featurette called Great Planet Earth moments which is essentially an extended trailer for the series.
The extras are rounded off by a series of documentaries features. The first is a 3 part series (each an hour long) called The Future, which touches upon conservation, and what we can do to save the Earth. We then have 3 documentaries on subjects touched upon during Planet Earth these are called Snow Leopard: Beyond the Myth, Secures of the Maya Underworld, and Elephant Nomads of the Namib Desert.
An excellent documentary series gets an excellent package courtesy of BBC/2 Entertain. This is truly amazing visual material, and beyond that a truly fascinating look at our planet. If you need an excuse to buy, the A/V quality is beyond that of any Blu-ray I have seen yet. The extras are elaborate and interesting, and offer a lot of extra value, and for those interested a Limited Edition is out there with all 6 disc packaged in a globe. Extremely Highly Recommended!