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Planet Earth: The Complete Collection (DVD Review)

18 Mar, 2007 By: John Latchem

Prebook 3/20/07; Street 4/24/07
BBC Video
$79.98 five-DVD set, $99.98 four-disc HD DVD or Blu-ray
Not rated.
Narrated by David Attenborough.

Wow. This series features some of the most remarkable nature footage I have ever seen — stunning images on par with anything produced for Imax.

“Planet Earth” pulls you in early. A seemingly conventional shot of flying birds begins to pull back, revealing an almost impossibly large flock. The camera continues to retract, but the birds fill every corner of the frame for what seems like miles. Such is the power of the clarity of the high-definition photography employed in the making of these shows.

The producers use almost every camera trick at their disposal. Satellite shots reveal seasonal changes far below, as green forests shift to shades of red. Time-lapse photography shows immense herds grazing and moving on, great forests replenishing, and strange new life growing from the carcasses of dead insects.

Some of the predatory behavior might be overly disturbing to some viewers. There are awesome shots of lions mauling elephants, tigers attacking monkeys, sharks snaring seals, and a polar bear dueling with a walrus.

One sequence depicts the ravenous feeding frenzy that can occur at the bottom of the ocean when its denizens devour the sinking husks of larger sea life.

The narration brings context to the imagery. Attenborough's voice is so reassuring, like a sage grandfather imparting great knowledge with his words. George Fenton's haunting music adds to the effect.

Yet, you could let the show run on a big-screen TV without the sound, letting the sweeping vistas wash over the screen like living art. It's as though every shot could grace the cover of a nature magazine.

All the episodes on the DVD end with a 10-minute behind-the-scenes vignette that answers a lot of the “how could they possibly get those shots” questions bound to arise during even the most casual of viewings.

The DVD also includes the three-part “Planet Earth: The Future,” which reflects on the beauty of the series and contemplates the effects of man's interactions with the environment and how to protect these fragile habitats.

The inclusion of these extras gives the DVD the edge over the high-def versions in terms of content, but obviously not in picture quality.

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