Reviewed by Brandon Bishop
Narrated by perennial nature documentarian David Attenborough, Planet Earth debuted in 2006 to universal acclaim. Attenborough has had a decades-long career as a naturalist and is as close to a house-hold name as one can be in the world of nature documentaries. Planet Earth featured breath-taking footage from around the globe, featuring the smallest to largest creatures and safest to most extreme environments in our world. It was among the first televised documentaries captured in pristine High-Definition to reach a wide audience, and is remembered today for its incredible visuals, thrilling displays of survival, and informative narration. A sequel of sorts, Planet Earth II debuted on the Discovery Channel in 2017 and features stunning 4K resolution.
There are few words that can describe the majesty and pristine beauty featured in this documentary. Each of its six episodes features many gasp-worthy moments. The cameras are thankfully unafraid to linger. The footage, at times, belies the senses. It could not possible be as magnificent as the first glance appears. But it is. 4K resolution ensures that we miss no detail, and even more importantly, the High Dynamic Range of this transfer allow for incredible color that must be seen to be believed. Combined with confident camera work designed more like a feature film than a nature program, the artistry and technical achievement of Planet Earth II is simply unmatched among its peers.
Planet Earth elevated the televised nature program to art, and its sequel follows with more spectacle as well as beauty. In a particular series highlight, its predecessor featured the first intimate footage of snow leopards in their natural habitat. Planet Earth II features the closest and clearest footage of the creatures ever to be captured in the wild, using remote camera technology. Other highlights of Planet Earth 2 include astounding aerial views of islands, an iguana racing for its life from swarms of oncoming snakes, and a number of species that have found themselves at home in man-made urban environs.
The narration by Attenborough lends much needed context to the visual perfection, without delving into melodrama to elicit emotion. Some recent works featuring Attenborough, such as Life and Frozen Planet also boast breathtaking imagery, but the narration is quite on the nose and designed to draw forth a response for its viewers, to a fault. The writing here is detailed and informative, but does not distract.
Planet Earth II stands with its predecessor above the rest as a brilliant and beautiful series that everyone should witness. It’s certainly best experienced in 4K with High Dynamic Range, but even without that capability, it is simply must-see.
The edition discussed in this review is available here.