By Bad Monkey
Monday, September 8th, 2008 at 4:36 pm
The Blue Planet: Seas of Life (2001)
5-Disc DVD Set
Directed by Alastair Fothergill
BBC Warner Home Entertainment
Years ago when I was lucky enough to be vacationing in Maui, a friend and I got tired of laying on the beach and decided to take SCUBA diving lessons. It was a lot of fun, we learned a loads, and both of us came to the same conclusion at the end of the week: “There’s a lot of freaky stuff down there.” This was an epic understatement. The measly 40-feet we got to dive in was a tiny sampling of the fascinating world that occupies 3/4 of the earth’s surface. This was made abundantly clear when I watched BBC’s The Blue Planet: Seas of Life DVD Collector’s Set.
Narrated by the incomparable David Attenborough, this documentary explores all aspects of marine life over the course of eight episodes on four DVDs… “Ocean World,” “Frozen Seas,” “Open Ocean,” “The Deep,” “Seasonal Seas,” “Coral Seas,” “Tidal Seas,” and “Coasts.” There’s also a fifth DVD with four bonus featurettes that loosely tie into the series. Five years in the making, The Blue Planet won multiple Emmy awards for its musical score and stunning cinematography.
There’s a lot to love about the series, but the thing that fascinated me most was just how unprecedented the footage is. I’ve watched my share of National Geographic shows and Animal Planet specials, but some of the segments they have in The Blue Planet are unlike anything I’ve ever seen before. The raw savagery of an Orca Whale killing a seal is all at once horrifying, captivating, and something you will never forget. Other mesmerizing scenes follow the migration of Blue Whales, explore the bizarre creatures of the deep, and reveal more than one marine species that had never been seen before. No alien creature in any sci-fi film can compare with the truly alien life forms that exist for real in our oceans.
The picture quality on these standard DVDs is mostly good, occasional spoiled when compression artifacts pop up. But after having seen the BBC’s other epic documentary series, Planet Earth on Blu-Ray, there’s really no other option. The Blue Planet is screaming to be viewed in HD… and hopefully one day it will be available that way. Audio is Dolby Digital Stereo and sounds great.
As amazing as the series is, there are a few problems. My biggest gripe is that they repeat some of the same material over and over again. This would not be as noticeable if you were watching one episode a week (as it was first broadcast), but it’s annoying to see the repetition when watching episodes back-to-back on DVD. Another annoyance is the sound mix, which can overpower the narrative at times. You’ll be trying to listen to Attenbobough talk about something while both the music and captured sound are at full volume. Neither of these problems diminished my overall enjoyment of the DVDs, but it was surprising given how polished the video editing is.
Overall I give The Blue Planet my highest possible recommendation. It’s so beautifully crafted and has such compelling footage that even those with no interest in marine life can enjoy the series. The exception would be small children who might be traumatized by cute baby turtles being eaten alive or seals and penguins being savagely killed. “Finding Nemo” this is not. But for everybody else… must-see material.