on February 23, 2013
The title for this review seems a bit much, but let me quickly explain why it's not hyperbole or meaningless oversell. I help at my friends video store, which hosts a giant collection of Blu-ray features. I own many, but I should specify the only Blu-Rays I purchase, mostly due to replay-ability, are nature documentaries. My modest collection boasts over 75 Blu-ray nature documentaries: BBC, Nat-Geo, Discovery and other independent sources. I've been collecting nature Blu-rays since the evening I installed a compatible drive in my computer. The PC is linked via 1080p HDMI connection to a large LCD screen. The reason I'm telling you this personal information is so you know I'm serious about the genre. I'm critical. It takes a lot to blow me away since I've viewed so many astonishing, eye-popping nature documentaries over the years. Other people collect guns, stamps or shoes. Well, I collect nature documentaries.
This is, without question, the best nature documentary ever made.
It's better than Life.
It's better than Planet Earth.
It's the reason why you should own a Blu-ray player and a high definition television.
I pre-ordered this series several months ago. Then, like a child waiting for his package to arrive, I eagerly paced my friends store for the delivery to be made yesterday. I'm an avid follower of anything David Attenborough produces -- a God for us nature doc enthusiasts. If you want to hear the highest degree of natural obsession, but described in as fascinating a way as listening to Indiana Jones tell tales of adventure, listen to Attenborough discuss filming on the extra interview footage, Disk 2. He'll give you a sense of where the genre as a whole has evolved from and how modern technology innovated how we study nature. But the reason why this is so great isn't because Attenborough carries it. It's attributed to the iconic and innovative panoramic and close-up cinematography, the high resolution night-filming, spectacular ecological sequencing, detailed studies and harrowing biological dramas.
The series breaks-down six African regions: the Kalahari, Savannah, Congo, Cape, Sahara and a looking-ahead episode called the Future. Among the intense biological attention, the crew follows most of the unique, rare and well-adapted African creatures, harvesting big questions and stirring the viewer into comprehending the vastness and the unfathomable diversity which exists on the mysterious continent. One of the many incredible scenes in the first episode shows the worlds largest underground lake, beneath the unforgiving Kalahari desert. Attenborough describes how this lake contains a prehistoric fish species that exists nowhere else on the planet and how it survives in such ironic form. Another gem is the EXTRAORDINARY oasis scene, where a breathtaking array of beasts and fowl drink side-by-side at a life-saving watering hole. It's one of the most overwhelming scenes ever captured, I'm not kidding. A Garden of Eden, a bounty of lions, giraffes, ostriches, rhinos, and many other stoic animals all existing for the moment as a unified body.
The series showcases the high, mountainous and remote "islands" where creatures like gorillas and other primates live. Detailing how family dramas are tied to the treacherous struggles of survival in the rain forest. You bare witness to the unique personalities and familial bonds, capturing intimate and rare once in a lifetime moments on camera. You see when the normally introverted and temperamental rhinos come out at night, greet one another and foster relationships with friends. Yes, with friends. You hear how they communicate and witness the body language they present for each other, making it easy, as easy as sympathizing with another human, to understand what the rhinos are thinking. These moments echo throughout the series within various species. It results in casting the beautifully special creatures with a sense of importance and individuality on the planet -- as equal as, and I say this with controversial trepidation, human populations struggle with the same belonging.
I never knew why giraffes had those two tiny horns on their heads before this series, which shows you why in glorious detail as the scene unfolds a cliffhanger moment into an uproarious Cinderella story. There are a few nail-biting, horrifying moments where in the last moment an event turns to favor the underdog, you never see it coming as you prepare to flinch and then you burst into tears and clap like a maniac.
Iconic sweeping panoramic landscapes fill the transitions between the micro-dramas. The vivid wildernesses offer glorious, endless wow-factor. You'll find yourself rewinding and re-watching scenes to maintain the tingly frisson, again and again. Earth-porn at its finest.
As usual, the BBC Concert Orchestra extends and resonates the visual majesty with a spectacularly swelling score. The finest timing represented when the camera slowly creeps over a gaping precipice and the symphony builds into a shivering crescendo.
There are hilarious moments too, like the squirrel dropping its dinner with the kind of attitude and personality you expect from your best friend, he's registering he's been spotted by a leopard, and is about to bolt to his haven. The odd and personality-brimming giraffes are also sources of comic relief throughout Africa--they've quickly risen to be one of my favorite creatures on the planet, all thanks to this series.
It is completely worthy of your time. It has the capacity to change your feelings to favor preservation and natural conservation in all its forms without brow-beating you with guilt trips or "humans are always a problem" shaming. Instead the series tactfully, and rightfully, admires nature and shows you why we should preserve these creatures, habitats and regions. And in that respect, showing is far more influential than telling.
Appropriate for all members of your family and offers a paramount-entrance into the revealing and worthwhile nature-doc collection. It's something every human on the planet should be required to see. This is why you bought your Blu-ray player. And if you do not own a Blu-Ray player, this is the reason you've been searching for to take the plunge.