Every now and then we get to witness nature on either the big screen or on television in ways that are just astounding. In 2007, Planet Earth from the BBC and the Discovery Channel came to America, was narrated by Sigourney Weaver, and showed an amazing array of life on our planet in glorious HD quality. Since then, it seems that the BBC and other documentary filmmakers have been working hard to top themselves.
Though Nature's Most Amazing Events is an incredible accomplishment, I don't think it quite matches up to the splendor or Planet Earth. That said, it includes some unbelievable footage of some inhospitable and nearly unreachable places all over the globe filmed over a period of years by extremely dedicated people. Where Planet Earth had little time to focus on a single area and the stories of individual animals, Nature's Most Amazing Events uses its own methodology and storytelling to create an emotional bond with the audience.
This two DVD set includes all six episodes from the series, and appends a "diary" to the end of each. Each diary tells the stories of the filmmakers as they tried to get to these places and record the footage used in the episode.
The series is narrated by David Attenborough and his very correct British accent only made it difficult for me to understand what he was saying in a few places. Notably, each time he says "school," I heard it as "shoal," which caused a bit of confusion. Upon figuring out his pronunciation, everything made much more sense.
The episode "The Great Melt," tells about the impact of global warming on the Arctic ice and the dangers the increased melting poses for the polar bears. However, beyond the polar bears one begins to see the huge circle of life as melting ice sends fresh water into the sea and alters habitats for an incredible array of fish, birds, seals, whales, and more. Particularly amazing are the shots of the narwhal migration through the ice. Though I'd seen pictures of these mysterious creatures before, actually seeing them wind their way through the canals and cracks opening in the melting ice is beautiful to behold.
"The Great Migration" and "The Great Flood" delve into the stories of the animals of Africa dealing with hostile and often deadly environmental conditions and yet somehow finding ways to survive in the Serengeti and Botswana's Okavango Delta. Particularly amazing here is the transformation of the Okavango from cracked and dried sandy plains to a lush, green field and swamp with bountiful fish, grasses, and wildlife.
My favorites in the series include "The Great Salmon Run" and "The Great Tide". The former follows salmon as they migrate back to the place where they were spawned in British Columbia. Along the way there are natural barriers to overcome as well as hungry predators. In "The Great Tide," billions of sardines draw thousands of predators to the coasts of South Africa for a feeding frenzy beyond belief.
The photography is top notch for all of the episodes and really does bring you as close to the action as you can possibly be without being there yourself. It is definitely an amazing accomplishment by a devoted and talented crew of people all around the world.
Beyond the episodes themselves, the "diaries" are truly captivating. The filmmakers are not only consummate professionals as far as camera-work goes, but are all adventurous souls who deserve to have their own stories told. In "The Great Salmon Run," one cameraman swims with Grizzly Bears who are starving and trying to catch the salmon while he takes footage of them in action. Talk about nerves of steel. In "The Great Tide" we see an experienced underwater photographer get his flipper nibbled on by a shark — these people deserve our admiration for their courage and dedication to their craft.
If you are a nature lover or are simply captivated by the beautiful documentaries coming out these days, Nature's Most Amazing Events should be on your list of DVDs to pick up. Each story is truly beautiful to behold. I can hardly wait to see what the BBC will do next.