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STUDIO: Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment
RUNNING TIME: 90 minutes
•Earth Diaries: The Making of Earth: The Movie
•DVD copy of the film
Mickey Mouse’s ears heard this Planet Earth thing was making some money and decided to get in on that moneymaker.
Narrated by James Earl Jones
Directed by Alastair Fothergill and Mark Linfield
Planet Earth has been recut into a 90 minute feature aimed at kids that, while still stunningly beautiful, loses the charm and excellent narration of the original series.
Planet Earth was nothing short of a phenomenon when it first aired on the BBC and Discover Channel. Suddenly everyone was interested in seeing this stunning nature film that maximized the use of High Definition visuals and sound unlike anything witnessed before. Over the course of eleven one-hour episodes, the series delved into every side of the planet we call home. Soon after, a 90 minute feature version began being shown around the world. When it finally made it to the US this year, it had been repackaged by Disney and given a narration by the pre-Morgan Freeman voice of all films, James Earl Jones.
The main problem is that you can’t possibly try to cover the entire world in 90 minutes. Using the exact same footage as the extended series now extremely truncated, we get snippets of the life of Polar Bears cubs, Elephant babies, and a Mother-son team of whales. Everything else is relegated to one or two shots. The package would have you believe that the film traces the migratory patterns of these three animals, but really that’s only because that is the closest one could come to assembling a synopsis out of the scattershot film experience.
What’s worse than only telling part of the story, the film is clearly aimed for a G rating. This reviewer can remember when nature would be shown in all its violent unkind glory in these types of films to educate and not try to blindfold children about the harsh realities of life. Who cares if you would get a PG? The point was to show what really goes on. Instead, every time an animal is about to be killed or suffer a malady, the film cuts away to tell you about something else. No blood, no dwelling even for a second on the fact that yes, that elephant that was dragged to the ground by a pride of Lions was in fact eaten.
Still, there are worse ways to spend 90 minutes than revisiting the stunning visuals of (Planet) Earth. Unfortunately when one knows the content they’re missing out on, there is just no comparison. James Earl Jones does his best to try and do the narration justice, but he just isn’t the right fit for a film that is heavy on accentuating the levity of being a young animal in the wild. David Attenborough’s original BBC narration had the right combination of kindly and authoritative tones that Segourney Weaver just couldn’t muster on the American release either.
This is probably the only reason to own this disc. Thanks to BD-Live, the Earth menu is a living organism itself. When the main menu comes up, it has your local time and weather as part of the menu. But that’s not all. There are also factoids associated with each of the continents on Earth that are updated for the current season. They could be telling you that birds are migrating from here to here or that mating time for Elephants has begun. Sometimes, there is even video embedded to go along with it. The drawback is that these video clips can’t be maximized for your screen, so you’re left watching a little window on the menu.
In addition to the cool menu, there is a 40 minute “Earth Diaries” making of that is more worthwhile than the feature. It incorporates the Standard-def diaries that were available as part of the Planet Earth DVD release intercut with HD interviews with the filmmakers and a bit more technical how-they-did-it. There is also a “filmmaker annotations” setting that lets you watch the film with pop-up video clips of filmmaker interview clips.
This being a Disney release, there is also a DVD copy of the film “for no extra cost” for those who have not yet switched over to Blu-ray but plan to at a later date. Why you would enjoy anything Planet Earth related in standard def is beyond me though.
A perfect demo for High-def presentation as far as I’m concerned, Disney has once again released a home video that does the film justice visually. And yet I can’t see any reason to purchase this over the Planet Earth box set on blu-ray.