LIFE DVD Review

     July 6, 2010

LIFE slice

life noun, definition 1 c: an organismic state characterized by capacity for metabolism, growth, reaction to stimuli, and reproduction (from the Merriam Webster Dictionary, online edition)

Life noun, proper: a nature documentary television series produced by BBC Television and distributed in the United States by the BBC and the Discovery Channel that perfectly encapsulates the above definition of “life”.  More after the jump.

Life took three years to shoot, building upon and advancing the innovative techniques and technology used to produce the BBC’s ground-breaking Planet Earth.  Like its predecessor, the end result of Life is a documentary filled with some of the most awe-inspiring and gorgeous nature cinematography ever filmed.  So remarkable is the footage that awe-inspiring and gorgeous may not do it justice.  According to the narration, much of what is shown here was captured on camera for the very first time.

Obviously, the creatures, flora and situations are the stars of the show.  But all of this footage had to be structured and edited down into a cohesive form—one can only imagine what remains unused in the archives!  Life is divided into ten episodes: “Challenges of Life”, “Reptiles and Amphibians”, “Mammals”, “Fish”, “Birds”, “Insects”, “Hunters and Hunted”, “Creatures of the Deep”, “Plants” and “Primates”.

Each of the segments has a natural, organic flow as it jumps from each plant or animal to the next.  The narration plays much better than that of similar, but lesser nature documentaries (if such lesser works can even be called similar).  The voice over is informative while avoiding the far too typical clinical dryness that can actually detract from the images being watched.  Could it be even more detailed, more technical, more educational?  Yes, and that would be welcome.  However, doing so would have necessitated either sacrificing the breadth of content (which would have been a shame) or lengthening the episodes, so what is spoken is an understandable compromise.

Although the original British broadcast was narrated by David Attenborough, the American version (from which this 4-DVD set is culled) was recorded by Oprah Winfrey.  Although Oprah is generally someone whom I could go without hearing ever again and it would still be too soon, she does a respectable job on Life.  Still I see no reason why Discovery Channel felt a need to rerecord—Attenborough would have been far superior.

Special features of the set include “Life on Location” (a documentary on the making of the documentary and just what it took the filmmakers to accomplish some of this groundbreaking work), deleted scenes (yay!), and a music only track for those who want to enjoy the footage simply on its own merits.

Life is cinematic proof that the miracles of nature are as fascinating as any story dreamed up in a Hollywood studio—if not more so.  Watch and be enthralled.

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