Human Planet is the latest in what seems to be an increasing trend in the documentary world. It’s an eight part series that looks at nature, humanity and how the two interact. Ever since the success of BBC’s Planet Earth we’ve seen a number of these types of documentaries spring up. Some better than others.
The newest one is Human Planet, which turns the camera on the most fascinating species of all, humans. It takes an interesting look at different cultures around the world and the ways that they interact with their environments to survive. Each episode looks absolutely jaw dropping (as to be expected) and it’s often inspiring and completely engaging. Over eight episodes we are treated to 80 stories that are mostly compelling, intriguing and will open your eyes like never before. Oh, and as an added bonus each episode is narrated by John Hurt.
We’re taken from one extreme to another as we venture through the harsh icy Arctic and then move to the blistering hot desert. The episodes include; Oceans: Into the Blue, Deserts: Life in the Furnace, Arctic: Life in the Deep Freeze, Jungles: People of the Trees, Mountains: Life in Thin Air, Grasslands: The Roots of Power, Rivers: Friend and Foe and Cities: Surviving the Urban Jungle.
Within each episode, we follow a few different stories, some more compelling than others but all still very interesting. Highlights include Philippines divers who dive 40 meters deep with only a crummy old air compressor and plastic hoses keeping them alive, Venezuelan children who try to catch tarantulas for dinner, the tribal gathering and the hunting in Africa, among others.
As you sit there watching you can’t help but to gasp at some of the things seen on screen. A lot of it is awe inspiring and absolutely beautiful. As these people go to extreme lengths to survive it’s absolutely fascinating. These individuals conquer what seems to be unconquerable and you simply sit there stunned. Some of the things you see here are just so foreign and so wild that it’s seriously an eye opener. Human Planet is a complete learning experience and will show you things that you seriously had not even the slightest clue existed.
It’s an ambitious series but it works very well. The whole thing is filmed wonderfully and is full of all the same ‘wow’ moments that you have seen in Life and Planet Earth. It’s simply breathtaking and the footage is flabbergasting. There are some absolutely stunning shots here and it’s a real visual treat. You’ll find yourself often wondering how they captured a particular shot or how they filmed a certain sequence.
The problem with stuff like this though is that it’s too niche. There will be some people who sit there just bored out of their mind, clearly not giving a shit about what they’re seeing. But then again, one man’s trash is another man’s treasure. If you’ve seen Planet Earth or Life and you enjoyed them, you’ll feel right at home here but if you know you’re not into these types of documentaries, this won’t change things.
Still, Human Planet is a near flawless celebration of the human spirit. If you can’t appreciate it then I feel bad for you. It’s an extraordinary look at our planet and our species and it should be considered essential viewing for everybody.
As expected for a series like this, the Blu-Ray transfer is spectacular. This is something that needs to be seen in HD. The blues of the ocean have never looked so gorgeous and the ferocious waves crashing down have never sounded so terrifying. Each environment, whether it be the ocean, jungle, desert etc, each one looks and sounds terrific. Closeups on faces reveal tremendous detail and clarity while skintones are all incredibly lifelike. Everything is neatly refined and textures are perfect. Colours are vivid are rich and aliasing is very minor. Overall, the video really captures our majestic planet in all its beauty.
Audio is also terrific. It may not be as great as some of the Hollywood blockbusters but it still gets the job done. John Hurt’s narration sounds great and is always crystal clear. Environments spring to life with immersive sounds, whether it be avalanches roaring or tribes chanting. Surrounds are put to effective use and aside from some recording conditions that weren’t exactly ideal, the audio is quite good.
Special features include the following:
- Behind the Lens
- Exclusive Streaming Featurettes
With Behind The Lens, what we get is a separate feature for each episode. Once the episode ends, the Behind The Lens feature plays and usually runs for ten minutes. Every episode has one. The feature gives us a making of look at the episode and usually focuses on one particular segment of the episode. They’re pretty interesting despite not being that long and they give us a better look at how some of this extraordinary stuff was captured on film.
Fez and Volcano are two quick features (each running for about 10 minutes). Fez deals with the filming in Morocco and how tough it was to film there while Volcano deals with the filming of the volcano and the dangers that came with it. Lastly, the streaming featurettes allow you to access some more featurettes which will be released slowly but surely. There is already one up called Zanskar.
All in all, this is a fantastic package. A couple of the segments are a tad bit slow or just not as compelling as others but they’re still watchable and pretty interesting. On the whole though, as a package, it’s fascinating stuff and really eye-opening. It was shot magnificently and that comes through well on the Blu-Ray. Like Planet Earth and Life, this is a package that really deserves a spot on your shelf and is essential to any Blu-Ray collection.
Human Planet is brilliantly shot, fascinating and eye-opening. It's a must watch series that is a very enjoyable experience.