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Category:    Home > Reviews > Documentary > Nature > Water > Oceans > Ecosystem > Sea Life > Environment > Science > Geology > Life (Narrated by Oprah Winfrey/BBC Blu-ray + Discovery DVD)

Life (Narrated by Oprah Winfrey/BBC Blu-ray + Discovery DVD)


Picture: B/B-     Sound: B+/B     Extras: C+     Film: B-



After the 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 flames.


As 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.


My 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.


The rest 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 favorite parts.


Reptiles & Amphibians

The komodo dragons.  Fierce, disgusting, blood thirsty, yet magical creatures that could make anyone think Jurassic Park could really happen.



Millions of bats hit the skies.



Fish dodging massive sharks never fails to thrill.



A vulture like bird that swallows bones…that’s right, bones.



If you 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 think you have seen it all before, lions taking down antelope and such?  Well, you haven’t seen anything yet.  Highlight…Cheetah versus ostrich.


Overall, 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 amazing.


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.


The DVD 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.


The 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 in all this is a good set.  Oprah just needs to stay away from Life.



-   Michael P. Dougherty II


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