I’m a sucker for the BBC documentaries. PLANET EARTH was one of my first 50 or so Blu-ray purchases and to this day, I love watching it. The imagery, the clarity and the breathtaking shots they managed to capture on film is just a joy to behold. That said, as much as I love it, I can’t watch multiple segments in one sitting. I find the series is too relaxing and like some critics of PLANET EARTH, it might be a little boring. Well, maybe the BBC listened to the critics and this time they decided to film LIFE and focus on over 100 different creatures on earth, each segment focusing on a specific creature and some of their peculiarities or life struggles. The imagery is just as beautiful, but this time we get invested into the “story”, which makes everything a little more enjoyable.
If you like animals or if you like beautiful scenery, then I think you’ll find something worthwhile in this release. I’m not a big bug guy, so the insect segment didn’t do much for me, but I loved the segment on sea life and mammals. But every segment has something positive and there’s no way you can view this without learning something about the animals you’re watching. Although PLANET EARTH was informative, I found LIFE to be even more interesting and I actually felt like I learned something after each segment.
But all is not well in LIFE-land. My view on this is that we’ve come too far in life (no pun intended) to have a set this popular and this expensive be released in 1080i. If this was all there was and all that was available, maybe I could understand. Or, if the price was dirt cheap (like the Over America series), then I would definitely understand. But the most frustrating thing about this release is that there are basically two identical releases for LIFE; one contains a 1080i transfer and is narrated by Oprah Winfrey and the other contains a 1080p transfer and is narrated by David Attenborough (technically, there’s also a more detailed featurette on this version). Now, truth be told that the differences are unnoticeable on about 75% of the set, but it’s still a serious disappointment for video enthusiasts. A set like this should be reference-quality and the fact is that people who bought/have this version are getting slightly cheated.
The other main difference is that this Discovery Channel edition features narration by Oprah Winfrey. I’m not Oprah’s biggest fan, so I was expecting to find her narration annoying, but I actually did not. She sounded a little more unnatural and “childish” (I don’t mean that as insulting as it sounds) with her delivery, but her voice was easy to listen to and she kept the high pitches to a minimum. I’m one of those that prefer Attenborough’s British, more “proper” narration, but I was fine with Oprah’s.
I think the BBC version of LIFE belongs on every Blu-ray collector’s shelf and if the 1080i transfer doesn’t bother you and you prefer Oprah Winfrey to David Attenborough, then this isn’t a bad purchase. Either way you go, you’re going to love what you’re watching. I continue to be amazed at what the BBC can do with these sets and look forward to future releases.
Video: I think I covered this in the review, but the 1080i transfer is a little frustrating.
Audio: The audio was incredible and at times it felt like you were with the animals. I wasn’t a huge fan of the score, but it wasn’t overly distracting.
On Location Documentaries (68:57): These are actually 10 separate documentaries, all discussing the various aspects of filming some of the difficult scenes. These are pretty interesting, if only to revel in some of the ingenious ideas the filmmakers came up with to capture various moments.
The Making of Life (41:42): This is similar to the above featurettes, but it takes more time to introduce the crew that actually did the work. While the featurettes discussed specific scenes, this one spoke at an aggregate level and looked at the overall process.
Deleted Scenes (18:24): I was surprised these even included narration and I can only assume they were axed to meet a specific runtime requirement. Otherwise, they could have been included right along with any of the segments that made the cut.