Review: Planet Earth II (2016)

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Planet Earth II (2016)

Directed by: Justin Anderson, Ed Charles, Fredi Devas, Chadden Hunter, Emma Napper, Elizabeth White | 300 minutes | documentary | Voiced by: David Attenborough

The BBC mammoth production ‘Planet Earth’ set a new gold standard in the competitive world of international nature documentary in 2006. No expense was spared to bring out the planet’s natural beauty in a penetrating way. These efforts more than rightly resulted in four Emmys and spectacular viewing figures all over the world (including the Netherlands and Belgium).

It took a while, but ten years later the legendary ‘Planet Earth’ has finally received a sequel. In ‘Planet Earth II’ too, the viewer is guided by the warm, knowledgeable and always inspired narration of Sir David Attenborough. With six episodes, this second series is somewhat shorter and more compact than the first ‘Planet Earth’ (eleven episodes). For each part, a specific habitat is treated and various well-known and less famous animals are discussed, all of which are optimally adapted to the requirements of a specific biotope.

The opening episode focuses entirely on the most isolated habitats on Earth, the islands. The episode also immediately contains one of the most striking and most talked about scenes in the series. We see how a newborn marine iguana hatches in the Galápagos sands and is attacked by a horde of hungry snakes on the way to the safe rocks. The legless reptiles come from every nook and cranny to pounce on the very young lizard. Although the scene gives the appearance of a coordinated attack, each snake acts from its own instinctive food need; so there is certainly no question of a joint manhunt. It turns out that the scene, which is presented as one event in the series, is in reality a montage of several separate moments. So multiple iguanas were filmed to capture the entire sequence, a fact that could be ascertained because the scale pattern of each individual iguana is slightly different. Although this discovery led to some critical comments about the authenticity of the documentary, in practice it is virtually impossible to cast such rare and startling scenes of nature in one take in the form of an exciting film fragment. The giant Komodo dragon (the largest lizard on Earth) and the extremely robust Chinstrap penguins, birds that brave the elements in their most unforgivable, gruesome and raging form on Zavodovski Island, are other animals extensively spotlighted in this first episode.

Mountains, jungles, deserts, grasslands and cities are the other habitats covered in the series. Whether it’s the regular and enigmatic snow leopard, the graceful and graceful golden eagle, the serval with strikingly large ears and long legs or a mysterious gold mole rarely seen by human eyes, the images in ‘Planet Earth II’ are almost without exception. of fabulous quality. And although we as humanity have unfortunately bulldozed or disrupted a large part of the earth’s natural oases, the episode about cities shows that certain animals can also survive in our concrete jungles. For example, Canadian ‘urban raccoons’ raise their young in chimneys without any problems. India’s grouse and macaques are once again taking advantage of all the food on display in urban markets, while Ethiopia’s formidable-looking spotted hyenas even enter the city of Harar and flock to humans for a free meat meal. The predators are said to have lived around the city walls for 500 years and have been fed by the city dwellers since the 1960s. Distributing leftover food to hyenas is a convenient, hygienic and environmentally friendly way to dispose of offal. A hyena’s jaws and stomach acid are strong enough to crush and digest even bones.

Because the lover of the better nature documentary has become quite spoiled with series and films (think of ‘Africa’, ‘North America’, ‘Frozen Planet’, ‘Great Migrations’, ‘Oceans’ and ‘The Hunt’) technically a very high level, ‘Planet Earth II’ no longer has the same, overwhelming influence as its predecessor. Also in terms of structure, theme and narrative value, the series does not set any revolutionary accents. However, that does not alter the fact that ‘Planet Earth II’ also developed into a viewing figure cannon and remains a wonderful documentary series that you should definitely see as a sincere nature lover.

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