Blu-Ray Review: Look at Our World From a Different Angle With ‘Human Planet’

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CHICAGO – The team behind the riveting and best-selling “Planet Earth” and “Life” have produced another multi-part documentary series that will show off your HDTV in ways you probably haven’t seen since the in-store demonstration. “Human Planet” is a mostly-riveting examination of the way we interact with the world around us, featuring unique stories and personalities unlike any documentary you’ve ever seen. Blu-Ray Rating: 4.5/5.0
Blu-Ray Rating: 4.5/5.0

One of the most remarkable elements of “Planet Earth” (a must-own for anyone with a Blu-ray player) was the display of corners of the world and the creatures that lived there in ways that had never been seen before. Throughout the documentary, one was constantly asking “How did they get that shot?” It was a technical masterpiece that brought our planet to life in ways that only modern technology like High-Definition possibly could. And it focused on the creatures of this planet that serve as its only population over so much of its unpopulated surface.

“Human Planet” strives to merge the world captured in “Planet Earth” with the way humans interact with it. The producers traveled to dozens of countries, filming such diverse activities as a group of primitive whale hunters who kill the massive beasts with wooden boats and hand-made harpoons to a tribe in Mongolia in which the young men capture and train eagles to go fox-hunting. Once again, you’ve never seen anything quite like “Human Planet.”

Human Planet was released on Blu-Ray and DVD on April 26, 2011
Human Planet was released on Blu-Ray and DVD on April 26, 2011
Photo credit: Warner Bros. Home Video

The program was originally broadcast in England over eight nights with narration by John Hurt, which is the version included here on three Blu-ray discs and, clearly, the superior way to see the program. It was recently brought to the States with a new narrator and several hours excised to arrive at six episodes. While that version, aired on the Discovery Channel, was surely worth watching, “Human Planet” is the kind of riveting experience that’s best-viewed on Blu-ray disc without commercials, distractions, or editing.

Each hour of the series focuses on a different element of the world and how humans interact with it, in the following order: “Oceans,” “Deserts,” “Arctic,” “Jungles,” “Mountains,” “Grasslands,” “Rivers,” and “Cities.” John Hurt was a perfect choice for narrator, conveying intelligence and depth without coming off dry.

Human Planet was released on Blu-Ray and DVD on April 26, 2011
Human Planet was released on Blu-Ray and DVD on April 26, 2011
Photo credit: Warner Bros. Home Video

One can’t say enough for how amazing “Human Planet” looks in HD. It’s the kind of program that proves, yet again, that mother nature is still a better visual effects artist that any Hollywood studio. There are shots in “Human Planet” that your movie-loving brain will tell you are CGI but they’re clearly not. It’s mesmerizing, almost to the point where you’ll get lost in the visuals and miss the narrative. To that point, I did sometimes feel like “Human Planet” was a bit episodic and scattershot — I sometimes wanted more connective tissue between the stories other than the overall subject matter of the episode.

But it’s a minor complaint. Anyone who has appreciated the beauty of HD documentaries like “Life” or “Planet Earth” owes it to themselves to take the trip to “Human Planet.” Programs like this one are one of the reasons that HD was developed in the first place.

“Following in the footsteps of Planet Earth and Life, this epic eight-part blockbuster is a breathtaking celebration of the amazing, complex, profound and sometimes challenging relationship between humankind and nature. Humans are the most successful species on the planet. From the frozen Arctic to steamy rainforests, from tiny islands in vast oceans to parched deserts, people have found remarkable ways to adapt and survive. We’ve done this by harnessing our immense courage and ingenuity, learning to live with and utilize the other creatures with which we share these wild places. Human Planet weaves together eighty inspiring stories, many never told before, set to a globally-influenced soundtrack by award-winning composer Nitin Sawhney. Each episode focuses on a particular habitat and reveals how its people have created astonishing solutions in the face of extreme adversity. Finally we visit the urban jungle, where most of us now live, and discover why the connection between humanity and nature here is the most vital of all.”

Special Features:
“Behind the Lens - A set of 10 ten-minute “making of” featurettes, one at the end of each episode plus two bonus featurettes!

“Human Planet” was released by BBC/Warner Bros. on April 26th, 2011 on Blu-ray and DVD. It is not rated and runs 400 minutes. John Hurt narrates. content director Brian Tallerico

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