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2009-09-25 15:18

What it’s about:

Our natural world brought to life through astounding camerawork, tied up with a message of environmental preservation.

What we thought:

When the BBC released its Planet Earth series in 2006, they set the standard for wildlife documentaries beyond the shadow of a doubt. With a massive budget, a five year shooting period and 40 camera teams working on it, it’s difficult to see how it could be topped, and we’re sure to be seeing re-runs, re-releases and special editons for decades to come. My only disappointment was that I never had the opportunity to see the footage blown up on the big screen to appreciate the full grandeur of the footage. Well, there’s good news: now you can.

The distributors of the film assure me that Earth comprises all-new footage – none of it was actually in the Planet Earth series. That may be so, but I couldn’t really tell the difference – the footage is at very least from the same shoots. I could identify scenarios that I had watched on DVD. But to be honest, I don’t really care – the visuals are nothing short of gobsmacking when seen three stories high. There were moments when the vertiginous shots through the rainforests and over waterfalls had me leaning forward in my chair in anticipation of the swooping movement – it’s rollercoaster stuff.

You’ll notice that I’ve been concentrating on the quality of the shots –and that’s because when it comes to storyline, the film is actually pretty weak. There’s a vague theme of environmental issues leading to a decline in these natural habitats – from the Arctic ice that supports polar bears to the deforestation of the rain forests. There’s another narrative theme that starts off exploring the seasons as they unfold on different parts of the planet. However, both of these storylines feel unresolved and act more as an excuse to patch together a greatest-hits collection from the Planet Earth series. It is a shame that a stronger narrative couldn’t be woven through the scenes, as the film was less engaging than the individual TV shows, despite the more impressive visuals.

The sum total is that Earth isn’t breaking any new ground in the wildlife documentary genre – but it’s certainly bringing refinement and class, and affords us the opportunity to see parts of our world on a scale that can only be bettered by actually being there. That alone makes it worthwhile viewing. 

Feature-length version of the documentary TV series "Planet Earth", following the migration paths of four animal families.

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