Steve's Herpetological Blog

An insight into the life of Steve, his research and the many books he reads


#SteveReviews: Life on Our Planet

It is weird to me to watch a nature documentary, especially one which by title appears to be a spinoff of an Attenborough series and not have him narrate it. Instead however, Life on Our Planet which is available on Netflix is narrated by the iconic Morgan Freeman. Something that I didn’t realise until the second or third episode, is that Steven Spielberg was one of the executive producers of interesting series. I think I am right in saying that is it one of the only wildlife documentary series I can think of that blends current day filmography with recreations of ancient worlds using CGI. As this is a Spielberg production it is no surprise that the special effects were carried out by Industrial Light & Magic (ILM), which is owned by LucasFilm. The premise of the series was that each episode followed a particular time period in Earth’s history, transcending the boundaries of traditional wildlife documentaries that Alastair Fothergill and Silverback Films are usually associated with.

Whilst I love the premise of a wildlife documentary series taking a look back in time at a difference Era during each episode, I feel that Life on Our Planet was trying too hard to be Prehistoric Planet. I mean, they’ve both got ‘planet’ in the title and deal with largely extinct species. This and the fact that it seemed to have a conflicted identity, switching between computer generated scenes courtesy of ILM and the traditional wildlife documentary sequences. The cinematography is what you would expect of a production with this sort of budget and backing, but sometimes the switch between the two wasn’t always as seamless as it could be. There were also instances where the rendering of the prehistoric animals and their environments felt rushed or incomplete. In comparison, the dinosaurs in Prehistoric Planet 2 are so photorealistic, it is hard to tell they are computer generated. The same cannot be said for those produced by ILM, which is a real shame. I was expecting better.

With those technical aspects aside, I did really enjoy the story telling throughout the series once I had gotten used to Freeman’s voice. It is so calm and soothing, just as Attenborough’s, helping to bring an edge of intellect to the series that hopefully helps everyone understand what is going on. Perhaps that is why Freeman was chosen as the narrator – his voice is well known and with such a potentially complex topic to cover, you need someone who everyone is going to be able to follow. I know if I narrated the series, this wouldn’t be the case. I know my criticisms may seem harsh but overall this series was enjoyable, and I can see it being a hit with younger audiences, just as the Walking With series was when I was younger.

If you’ve watched Life on Our Planet, please let me know what you thought of the series below.

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