Blu-ray Review: Life (2010)

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Forget trying to figure out exactly what makes a car or computer work. Just moments into any of the ten episodes of BBC’s brilliantly executed Life, the engrossing follow-up to Planet Earth and The Blue Planet, you’ll find yourself completely amazed by how life works on the tiniest scale from the two trigger booby traps that evolution created for the venus flytrap to the way that cheetahs have learned to adapt to hunting as a group which is documented for the first time in this epic program.

There’s a lot of firsts in Life both from a cinematic point of view and a historical one as in the utilization of everything from deep sea divers to hot air balloons and the world’s smallest digital cameras, the award-winning Natural History Unit operating with a budget of twenty-two million American dollars was able to capture everything in sight “across every content and in every habitat,” for its four years in the making and three thousand day shoot.

With unpretentious, direct and very descriptive narration delivered by David Attenborough in the BBC edition and Oprah Winfrey in the American Region 1 DVD and Blu-ray release, the makers of Life manage to achieve an enviable feat from a writer’s perspective in more than meeting the remarkable high definition visuals halfway with its impeccable attention to detail that walks a fine line between informative and dry without boring audiences.

Simply breathtaking and awe-inspiring, Life is particularly impactful when witnessing the series spread across four Blu-ray discs that transfer the colossal viewing experience in full high definition photography. In fact, Life gets you so close to the wing of a bird or the eye of an insect that admittedly I jumped once or twice when a creature moved abruptly as though they’d found their way into my living room and I’d startled them simply by watching the delicate way that life interacts with life.

Opening with an overview of the series explaining the “Challenges of Life,” we soon get lost in the spectacle of it all, only later discovering that we’ve chronicled one hundred and thirty individual mini-stories contained throughout the roughly fifty minute episodes divided into topics ranging from “Mammals” to “Fish” (a particularly gorgeous installment), and “Plants.”

At its best when the series manages to catch a species right in the midst of action, Life also serves as a tremendous travelogue when we’re whisked to the sandy shores of the Desert Sea in Israel to meet the adorable ibex (just one of Earth’s millions of species) as he tries to outmaneuver a fox on a steep hill.

And whether we’re marveling at the way that tropicbirds stay close enough to the waves to avoid the frigates – dubbed “pirates of the sea” – who threaten to poach them, smiling at a tiny elephant shrew or dazzled by fish that somehow have developed the ability to soar into the sky to escape predators, we can’t help but gain an amazing admiration for not just the existence of so many diverse inhabitants but also the way we’ve managed to triumph over the impossible for so long.

While audiences may be divided on whether or not they prefer Winfrey or Attenborough, this engrossing, in-depth and highly worthwhile production is one that’s not to be missed. A landmark Discovery Channel and BBC event in 2010, the Blu-ray which presents the four discs in a book like case, features an isolated score or music only viewing option, deleted footage, and a collection of extras that chart the unbelievable undertaking of bringing such a documentary series to the airwaves.

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FTC Disclosure: Per standard professional practice, I received a review copy of this title in order to evaluate it for my readers, which had no impact whatsoever on whether or not it received a favorable or unfavorable critique.