BBC Earth’s One Life looks to reveal how Earth’s creatures are more similar than different, but stumbles in trying to make its point. The Blu-ray release never falters, however, offering great picture and sound along with some genuinely intriguing bonus material. Still, that may not be enough to recommend it, even for junkies of BBC Earth's particular brand of eye candy.
Distributed By: N/A
Video Resolution and Encode: 1080P/AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
Audio: English 5.1 DTS-HDMA
Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish, French
Rating: Not Rated
Run Time: 1Hr. 25 Min.
Package Includes: Blu-ray, DVD, UltraViolet
Disc Type: BD50 (dual layer)
Release Date: 04/09/2013
The notion behind Disney’s maddening earworm “It’s a Small World” is expanded to include the animal kingdom in BBC Earth’s first theatrical release, One Life. Directed by veteran nature documentarians Michael Gunton (Earth: The Movie) and Martha Holmes (The Blue Planet), and using footage originally shot for David Attenborough’s 10-episodes series Life, the film hopscotches the globe to show whether elephant, octopus or bearded vulture, creatures of the Earth have fundamentally similar instincts and interests, from the care and feeding of newly born offspring to the protection and propagation of a community.
The Production Rating: 3.5/5
As we’ve come to expect from BBC Earth productions, One Life is filled with astonishing images of both an aesthetic and technical nature. On more than one occasion viewers will marvel at how some incredibly minute and fleeting moments were captured, the most spectacular undoubtedly being the high speed capture of a chameleon launching its gooey tongue to ensnare an unsuspecting praying mantis. Combined with some occasionally outsize sound effects, the visuals consistently inspire, if not entertain.
Less impressive is the Daniel Craig-voiced narrative, which anthropomorphizes its subjects at every opportunity, as if the imagery can’t speak for itself or viewers can’t see the unifying themes on their own. The one-after-the-other presentation of almost two dozen locations, with the only connective material being Craig’s narration, is also uninspired, the pattern becoming somewhat tedious by the midway point. Considering the movie is BBC Earth’s inaugural theatrical release, the storytelling should have at least matched the sophistication of its long format predecessor, if not BBC Earth's other made-for-TV productions. Though it does prove itself more than a mere Life series highlight reel, it ultimately needs more narrative complexity to make it truly stand on its own.
Past BBC releases like Planet Earth set a high bar for HD presentations, and the transfer for One Life maintains that standard of quality. Framed at 1.78:1, the 1080p, AVC-encoded transfer looks spectacular across-the-board, from black levels to contrast to color. Detail and sharpness are similarly impressive, holding up in both its wide angle panoramas and extreme close ups. I looked hard for instances of noise or banding, minor issues that have shown up on past releases, but couldn’t spot anything of the sort. Larger viewing dimensions might reveal some issues, but on my 50” display the picture was consistently dazzling.
Video Rating: 4.5/5 3D Rating: NA
Craig's narration in the English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track is crisp, detailed, and intelligible. The mix uses the surround channels for the film’s orchestral score and some environmental effects like wind and forest noises, but it’s not an especially aggressive mix as the front sound stage tends to dominate the presentation. LFE is also missing for the most part, but the track has a consistently satisfying level of depth and dynamic range.
Audio Rating: 4/5
If you’ve ever flipped to the back of National Geographic to see what the photographers went through to capture some of their images, more than likely you’ll find some of the bonus material more interesting than the main feature, namely the behind-the-scenes footage and the interviews with the cameramen.
Special Features Rating: 4/5
Audio Commentary with Michael Gunton and Martha Holmes
Michael Gunton on One Life (10:04, HD): The filmmaker discusses the movie’s premise and themes and describes the techniques used to capture some of the more impressive visuals.
At the Music Recording (3:29, HD): Video from the orchestral score recording session includes interviews with Conductor Geoffrey Alexander and Composer George Fenton.
Behind the Scenes (32:40, HD): Looks at the methods and madness involved in recording the movie’s fantastic images, specifically focusing on the recording of the strawberry poison arrow frog (8:31), ibex (6:41), gorilla (9:56), and Komodo dragon (7:31) sequences.
Bonus Shots (2:48, HD): Unused footage of the tropic birds (:27), capuchins (:56), snow monkeys (:49) and lammergeirs or bearded vultures (:36).
The Making of One LIfe (19:10, HD): Includes interviews with filmmakers Michael Gunton and Martha Holmes and Composer George Fenton. Daniel Craig gets a “featured” credit, but it’s merely clips from the film where he provides narration.
Interviews with the Cameramen (22:50, HD): A handful of the videographers talk about their experiences working in the field.
- Martyn Colbeck, elephants (6:21)
- Kevin Flay, grass cutter ants (5:06)
- Simon King, cheetahs (6:00)
- Gavin Thornton, capuchins (5:23)
- Neil Nightingale, executive producer (3:05)
- Martin Pope, producer (6:03)
- Martha Holmes, co-director (7:26)
- Michael Gunton, co-director (9:21)
- George Fenton, composer (7:00)
- David Freeman, editor (3:14)
Digital Copy: The offer to redeem the UltraViolet digital copy expires on April 9, 2015.
BBC Earth Films’ first theatrical release, One Life, has some amazing imagery, and the Blu-ray provides a fantastic presentation along with some great bonus material, but the shortcomings in the storytelling and the fact the same footage can be found in the more compelling David Attenborough series Life ultimately make the release hard to recommend. Save your pennies and your time for that 10-hour program instead.
Overall Rating: 3/5
Reviewed By: Cameron Yee
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