by Oprah Winfrey/BBC Blu-ray + Discovery DVD)
B/B- Sound: B+/B Extras: C+ Film: B-
huge success of endeavors like Planet
Earth it is obvious that more specials on our wonderful planet were on the
way. Researchers spends months, years
and life times exploring the oddities and wonders of the earth. Until recent years many of the most
fascinating things the world has to offer remained hidden; but with television
stations like Discovery Channel and Animal Planet we finally got to peer into
the unexplored and unknown. Specials
like Life have managed to take those
awe inspiring glimpses of nature to the next level, capturing insanely rare
moments in high definition like never seen before.
Life is broken down into different
segments; all narrated by TV’s head honcho Oprah Winfrey. Winfrey’s narration is pure awful from
beginning to end. Her voice is
recognizable and from that becomes increasingly distracting throughout the
hours of visual splendor. It is not merely
the fact that Winfrey’s voice is distracting, but it just doesn’t fit. Whether it is delivering quick quips, painful
puns or odd sexual innuendos each seems out of place in such a way that could
make the viewers’ head spin. There is no
reason that the American release could not have followed in suit with the
overseas airing and used Attenborough as the narrator; but my guess was that
some studio head thought attaching Oprah to the event would bring big
bucks. Instead of big bucks, Winfrey’s
narration is bringing big criticism as it remains odd and uninspiring. If it wasn’t for the sheer overwhelming
content of the film, Winfrey’s narration could have brought down the event in
previously mentioned Life is broken
down into multiple segments. The
segments are as follows; Challenges of Life, Reptiles & Amphibians,
Mammals, Fish, Birds, Insects, Hunters & Hunted, Creatures of the Deep,
Plants and finally Primates. The content
in this set is undeniably overwhelming and to think of the man hours that must
have went into creating this event is sheer insanity.
favorite segment in the set is the first with Challenges of Life. It
manages to explore basically every sector of life on this earth and exemplify
the challenges that creatures endure to survive. With instances such as fish wrangling
dolphins the site is astonishing; things you could never make up or imagine are
presented here as if it is nothing but an ordinary day.
of the segments explore the areas that they are entitled. Rather than ruin the surprise of Life or futilely attempt describe
indescribable sights, I will go the minimalist route and mention some of my
Reptiles & Amphibians
komodo dragons. Fierce, disgusting,
blood thirsty, yet magical creatures that could make anyone think Jurassic Park could really happen.
of bats hit the skies.
dodging massive sharks never fails to thrill.
like bird that swallows bones…that’s right, bones.
thought insects were gross and deadly before, this segment will only heighten
your fears. Concurrently, however, you
will be amazed by the beauty and grace of things like swarms of monarch
butterflies as they effortlessly glide through the air.
Hunters & Hunted
you have seen it all before, lions taking down antelope and such? Well, you haven’t seen anything yet. Highlight…Cheetah versus ostrich.
I found the set enjoyable and if it wasn’t for Oprah it would have received a
much higher rating. The lower rating
should not deter anyone or diminish the fact that the footage captured is
I wish I
could say Life boasts of perfect
picture, sound and extras but whereas not bad it is not perfect either. The picture is sadly presented in a 16 X 9
1080i image, unlike the UK
version with Attenborough which is in 1080p.
The image, though beautiful, is not the crispest and has the occasional
softness issue; though the vivid array of colors make up for this. What is nearly perfect on this Blu-ray,
however, is the LACK OF motion blur. As
the camera sweeps across the landscape to pick up an insect, bird or darting
cheetah the image is flawless and the viewer can pause at any point and have a
perfect rendering of that split second in time.
Slightly better than the picture quality is the DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
surround track that is amazing beginning to end. Almost everything about the sound is
wonderful (with the exception of Oprah’s voice) as it has great directionality,
ambient noises and overall crispness. My
only complaint about the sound design is the at times goofy ‘sound effects’
that are added to certain sequences. I
suppose the effects do at times minimize harsh situations, but more than
anything they are distracting.
is no whereas nice as the Blu-ray and in this reviewer’s opinion should not be
purchased. Half the experience is seeing
the amazing sites, but the other half is partaking in the incredible work that
went into getting pristine shots; and you will find that nowhere besides
Blu-ray. The picture is still a 16 X 9
widescreen, but neither that nor the Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround does the set
any justice. Stick to Blu-ray; trust me.
extras are few but nicely done as they include Deleted Scenes, a ‘Making of
Life’ featurette and ‘Life on Location.’
Both the ‘Making Of’ and ‘On Location’ featurettes are quite lengthy and
never boring as they catalog the hardships of making such an extensive
documentary. The ‘On Location’ extra
essential is part of the viewing experience as it is broken down into segments
that follow the sections as mentioned above; mammals, insects and so on. The ‘making of’ goes more into the extreme
difficulties of getting certain shots and the extreme dangers they put
themselves into to do so.
all this is a good set. Oprah just needs
to stay away from Life.
- Michael P. Dougherty II