The 2006 BBC documentary series Planet Earth was re-edited, re-narrated (by Patrick Stewart) and re-released internationally in 2007 as a theatrical film called, simply, Earth. Two years later, it has been re-re-narrated (by James Earl Jones) and is about to be re-re-released here in the states. My friend Su invited me to a special screening tonight; the film opens domestically later this month.
Very much like the nature shows I watched as a boy—Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom leaps to mind—this dazzling real-life drama shows us nature in its raw, undiluted form. A familiar scene in Earth shows a hungry cheetah chasing and quickly overtaking a young gazelle (except we see it in super slo-mo, where it takes about two minutes). But the real point of Earth is to show the migration paths of several animal families: specifically African elephant, humpback whale and polar bear. Mixed in are all kinds of other animals, including wolves, birds of paradise, lions and caribou. Earth sets out to show us the challenges face by these animals in a world whose climates are rapidly changing due to global warming. We see their battles, their journeys, their struggles, their predators, their quest for food and water. All of it is shot in exquisite high-definition, and all of it is extraordinary. From a baby polar bear emerging from hibernation and walking for the first time to a great white shark chomping into its prey, the "circle of life" theme is laid before us in glorious living color. This may be the most beautifully photographed film of all time, and James Earl Jones sounds better than ever in his narration. The viewer alternately watches the film in a kind of awe, marveling at both the beauty of nature and the technical wizardry that went into filming it in the first place. The time-lapse photography in particular is truly majestic. Rating: 5/5.