Planet Earth (review)
Review by Lizzie Guilfoyle
JUST when you thought natural history films couldn’t get any better, along comes Planet Earth, a new BBC documentary narrated by Sir David Attenborough.
And much of the credit for such extraordinary filmmaking goes to new technology; in particular, to a new system that keeps a camera stable on a helicopter, and a lens four times more powerful than any used in the past.
As the film’s producer Alastair Fothergill explained: “In the past, we were flying so low to get a close-up shot that the animals ran away…..With the new system, we can fly at 400m, even higher, and still get a perfect close-up.”
And he added: “The animals on the ground don’t even know we are there, and yet we are keeping up with the action in a way we never have been able to before.”
The results, as you might expect, are stunning. Not only do we see three million caribou on their annual migration but also a pack of wild dogs hunting gazelle. I have to admit, I don’t find wild dogs particularly appealing, but having watched them in action, they have earned my grudging respect.
And the technology that allows crews to film in super slow motion has also provided remarkable footage of great white sharks preying on a colony of seals. It’s a sight that evokes both awe and pity – awe for these magnificent predators but pity for their hapless victims.
Of course, technology is only part of the equation. Patience was also of paramount importance. The series itself took four years to complete; while many sequences were filmed only after one or several failed attempts. For example, the Himalayan snow leopard chasing a mountain goat down a vertical slope, came about after two failed trips.
The series also brings never-before-seen images to our screens, such as grizzly bears tending new born cubs and feeding on moths; displaying birds of paradise captured with a low light camera; and pink river dolphins presenting stones as gifts during courtship.
From the highest mountain to the deepest ocean, from the most inhospital to the most fertile regions on the planet, from the smallest to the largest creatures known to man – nothing, it seems, has been overlooked. It’s all here as you’ve never seen it before.
But Planet Earth also has an important message – that global warming poses a very serious threat to the future of life on Earth. If then, this superb portrait of our planet increases our awareness of the fragility and beauty of life, so much the better.