Directed by Alastair Fothergill, Mark Linfield
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 1080p AVC codec
Running Time: 90 minutes
Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 English; Dolby Digital 5.1 French, Spanish, others
Subtitles: SDH, French, Spanish
MSRP: $ 39.99
Release Date: September 1, 2009
Review Date: September 1, 2009
A Disney True-Life Adventure for the new millennium, Earth seems actually to be vivacious footage from the BBC series Planet Earth condensed, rearranged to make a new narrative story, and presented with a new narrator and new music, but with less emphasis on finger-wagging about the dangers of global warming and man’s unconscionable abuse of his home planet. If you’ve seen Planet Earth, you no doubt already know that the footage is breathtaking and utterly unique. However, if you have seen Planet Earth, you may not find this Planet Earth-lite version especially necessary. For those who haven’t yet experienced the breadth of the magnificent series Planet Earth, Earth can serve as an appetizer to the main meal. If you like what you see here, you will definitely want to see the full range of what that series has to offer.
The directors of the project have stated that they see the theme of Earth as being about the tilt of the Earth on its axis, a scientific fact that gives our planet its unique climates and seasons. But in the finished product we see here, the theme seems so much more clearly discernable as migration over the course of a single Earth year. The three animals whose stories we follow most intently in this movie: the polar bear, the elephant, and the humpback whale, must each make yearly migrations to areas where they can feed. (We also follow migratory trips for cranes, caribou, and other animals but not in the detail that the three main animals are shown.) The trips are arduous leaving each of the animals on the verge of death; indeed, some don’t survive their ordeals, and the filmmakers aren’t adverse to showing nature at its most unmerciful. On the other hand, because the film is rated G, we are spared up close and personal views of animals tearing apart their prey and feeding; it seems to be enough that we follow the hunt without needing to view its aftermath.
James Earl Jones narrates the film, and his resonant bass-baritone provides the gravitas the majesty of these images deserves. Watching the ninety minutes of Earth leaves one with a distinct sense of awe at the enormous amount of life, both plant and animal, that our small planet supports. On the other hand, the threat of man’s wastefulness and short-sightedness about preserving the environment gets only offhanded comment and is not the focus of the piece. Traveling from pole to pole and through mountains, deserts, oceans, and rainforests, one may feel that the film cuts too wide a swath through too many natural wonders to be able to do justice to any of them. The focus on the three migrating animals is appropriate for a movie that’s going to run less than two hours, but one would love to have glimpsed more unseen footage here rather than so much that has already been seen and enjoyed in Planet Earth. On the big screen, the footage would have been undoubtedly spectacular, but returning now to the home video realm, one can’t help but feel he’s getting Planet Earth Redux. And the narration, written by directors Alastair Fothergill, and Mark Linfield along with Leslie Megahey isn’t particularly compelling but serves merely as an adequate pathway to each new scene in the film.
The image has been framed at 1.78:1 and is presented in 1080p using the AVC codec. The image quality is mostly superlative with only an occasional shot seeming to be less than completely sharp and utterly dimensional. Color is beautifully rendered, and no artifacts spoil the pristine quality of the picture presented here. The film has been divided into 12 chapters.
The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround mix is a wonderful achievement. Ambient sounds of the animals along with wind, rain, thunder, and other natural environmental effects are placed appropriately throughout the soundfield. George Fenton’s music also gets an expansive lift with its utilization in the sound mix. The LFE channel is superbly used though not to overkill.
The user may turn on filmmaker annotations which opens up PiP windows featuring the directors, the producers, and scientists of note commenting on specific scenes or on aspects of nature being depicted in the film. Pop-up facts also occasionally appear in their own windows during the running time of the movie.
“Earth Diaries: The Making of Earth the Movie” is a 42 ½-minute documentary on the five year journey to bring the film to theaters. The directors discuss the innovative cameras used during the shoot, and we travel along on several hazardous and sometimes frustrating expeditions to get specific footage to fit certain aspects of the narrative that the directors want to show. It’s presented in 1080p.
The main screen features “living menus” in which the user can arrow through seven “hot spots” on Earth to get inside information or view a short video clip concerning a specific aspect of that part of the world’s topography. According to the primer on the disc, these seven hot spots will change periodically and thus the Blu-ray disc will offer different information about the new hot spots when they switch.
The disc offers 1080p trailers for Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Oceans, Up!, Tinker Bell and the Lost Treasure, and Santa Buddies¸ among others.
The second disc in the set is a DVD copy of the film.
3.5/5 (not an average)
For those who have seen Planet Earth, the new Disneynature release Earth is going to seem overly familiar. For those who haven’t, it features exquisite nature footage and a compelling story of the natural world with outstanding picture and sound adding to the disc’s worthiness. Recommended!