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Earth From Above (Blu-ray Review)

12 Apr, 2011 By: John Latchem

Street 4/19/11
$49.99 six-DVD set, $34.99 individual Blu-ray combo packs
Not rated.

The slick packaging evokes memories of Planet Earth, promising sweeping landscape panoramas and a god’s eye view of nature. And like Planet Earth, the three volumes divide the subject matter into specific categories of nature. “Stunning Water” offers oceans, rivers and glaciers; “Life” touts animals, plants and biodiversity; and “Amazing Lands” presents deserts, forests and mountains.

These descriptions are somewhat misleading, however. The programs themselves are French documentaries pushing a strong environmentalist point of view, featuring aerial photographer Yann Arthus-Bertrand as he profiles various issues and activists in parts of the world where he sees nature as particularly threatened by the intrusion of man.

The well-produced shows are presented like a news magazine, with different segments about unique topics with a passive-aggressive focus on the usual green-movement themes — corporations are bad, Americans are indulgent, we must be one with nature, etc. But there are some revelations that are eye-opening despite the program’s political bent.

Earth From Above isn’t as abrasive and direct as something that really wants to get confrontational, but it might be a bit heavy-handed for the tastes of viewers looking for the typical BBC or Discovery Channel type nature shows they can use to show off their HDTVs.

As for the photography, it’s usually gorgeous, though the high-def presentation is a little inconsistent. Some of the aerials are fuzzy, as if standard-def footage has been blown up into HD and weaved into the narrative.

Be on the lookout for an appearance by Greenpeace co-founder Paul Watson, whose most recent exposure has come through the reality show “Whale Wars.”

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