A few years ago, BBC released a mini-series that detailed various aspects of our planet. Their team traveled the globe, shooting scenes of majesty, serenity, and heartbreak. After shooting for roughly five years, the directors put together an eight-part series that detailed the Earth, her creatures, and her past — Planet Earth. Using the same footage, they also released an eight-part series that detailed the oceans — Blue Planet. Both series are widely acclaimed, and are a popular feature on the Discovery Channel.
BBC, realizing the potential of a wider audience and more money, decided to display parts of their series in movie theaters. They simply could not figure out how to do this on their own. This is where Disney Nature stepped in, and took over production of the movie. Using three main story arcs (all involving youngsters and their mothers), Disney managed to combine the breathtaking footage with a story, creating what is needed for a movie. It worked perfectly. Not only is Earth a smash hit, they are planning on doing it again next year with Oceans, a similar retelling of Blue Planet.
Earth tells three main stories, all of which feature a mother and her youngsters as they struggle to survive in the harsh reality that is life. The polar bears struggle with a loss of ice, as the enhanced greenhouse effect (global warming to non-scientists) removes their hunting platforms. The elephants struggle against other animals and nature herself as lions and droughts cast a shadow over their lives. The humpback whales simply struggle with a trip, as an 8000 mile round trip to their hunting grounds is tedious and difficult.
Yet, outside of the three obvious stories, Earth tells a far more important one – that of Earth herself. By having snapshots of all the different creatures that inhabit our planet (save for ourselves), the movie shows us exactly what nature is, and what we need to protect. By attaching these creatures to stories of struggle, loss, and joy, Disney is able to weave a complicated message of conservation, care, and love. Basically, Earth tells us what is going to happen to our planet if we don't clean ourselves up.
To tell this story, BBC and Disney utilize some of the best footage I have ever seen in my life. Using groundbreaking techniques (according to the extras), the cameramen are able to film fascinating scenes and sequences with precision and ease. We can watch a cheetah attack in slow motion, and watch the great white launch itself at a harbor seal. While these show the gruesome side of nature, they also show the power that each creature has evolved to posses. The images are amazing, and they make you look at our world in a whole new light.
Speaking of the visuals, Earth is one of the best 1080p presentations that I have ever seen. In fact, the only thing that I think looks better than Earth is Planet Earth itself. All of the colors jump off of the screen, and the contrast is perfect. I can see particles in the mist at Angel Falls, and the grains of sand in the Sahara. This sort of quality is amazing, and it only serves to better the overall feel of the movie. Basically, Earth makes you feel as though you were on location with the camera crew.
While the video quality is amazing, the audio quality is somewhat lacking. This is a major disappointment. Rarely is the surround sound utilized to any effect, and when it is, the front speakers still have too much power. This leads to a feeling of disillusionment with the movie itself, and draws the viewer out of it. Furthermore, James Earl Jones, no matter how good a speaker he is, is not the person for this movie. Not only is his deep voice distracting, but what he says (personifying the animals, talking about what 'father' was going to do, etc.) actually harms the scientific aspects of the movie, which is what BBC was after. For such an amazing movie, I expect better from the sound department.
As for extras, Earth has only three. There is a DVD version of the film, which, while nice for car rides, really diminishes the beauty and quality of the movie. There are also filmmaker annotations, which are an interesting look into the film itself, and what the directors thought. Finally, there is "Earth Diaries," which is a making of feature. To me, "Earth Diaries" is about as good as the movie itself, as it shows the locations, techniques, and skills that were used to make both the movie and the BBC series. I love looking at the different cameras used, and I really enjoy the depth at which the producers show their production. This is a must watch.
Overall, I really enjoyed Earth. Sure, if you already have Planet Earth, then there is no reason to grab this variation, but it was good nonetheless. The movie is stunning and thought-provoking, the video quality is amazing, and the extras are well worth watching. I really enjoyed the film (except for the script) and thought that the overall production was suburb. I recommend either getting Earth or Planet Earth today.
Movie Quality: One of the best films of the year.
Blu-ray Quality: Stunning, absolutely stunning.
Audio Quality: Bad surround sound usage, and even worse narration.
Extras: Earth Diaries are well worth watching, the rest are okay.
Overall: If you already own Planet Earth don't bother, otherwise grab Earth.
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