LIFE is a groundbreaking nature documentary series that aired on Discovery Channel in the United States this Spring. It is part of the BBC Earth brand that has included other popular nature series including Planet Earth and The Blue Planet. You can now own LIFE at home, as it is available on DVD and Blu-ray starting today. Read our review after the jump.
Life is produced by the BBC Natural History Unit in association with the Discovery Channel, Skai TV and the Open University. The show, like Planet Earth, originally aired on BBC One with David David Attenborough narrating. Here in the states, Oprah Winfrey provides the narration, though otherwise the shows are essentially the same, save for the ten minute “Life on Location” making-of featurettes that only aired on BBC.
In a similar style to Planet Earth (which focused on geography and was narrated for Discovery by Sigourney Weaver), the series takes ten episodes to focus on different aspects of life on Earth, and includes an eleventh behind-the-scenes episode titled “Making Of Life” (separate from “Life on Location”). The series was filmed on location in HD over four years and manages to get some extremely rare footage. The focus was “to show common features that have contributed to the success of each group, and to document intimate and dramatic moments in the lives of selected species chosen for their charisma or their extraordinary behavior.”
I am a big fan of Planet Earth, so I had high hopes for LIFE to live (pun partially intended) up to it. Surprisingly, I think I like this show better, and it’s not just because Oprah is a better narrator than Weaver. The theme of the show is more approachable in my opinion. Planet Earth did feature animals prominently, but LIFE focuses on telling stories. Oprah is probably the perfect narrator for this, since she is so relatable. Attenborough was made for the Planet Earth commentary, but Oprah is a bit more warm and inviting in her storytelling technique. Of course, the high definition video is stunning. I’m truly amazed at the footage they captured and how they were able to piece them together to tell a full story. The music, composed by George Fenton, is beautiful and fits perfectly.
The features for the DVD and Blu-ray are essentially the same, but we received the Blu-Ray to review. Thanks to the inclusion of the “Life on Location” featurettes (along with the final episode), you really see how difficult it was to film the series, as well as the passion the filmmakers had. The 18 minutes of deleted scenes are a nice addition, but some explanation for their exclusion from the show (aside from two scenes which seemed obvious) would have been nicer. The design of the menu, while not a big factor, is well done, and I love how you can actually reach it without leaving the episode your watching. This means if you’re watching a segment and you want to remove Oprah’s narration (which you can do on all the episodes), it does it right there on the fly. This might be handy for those who are turned off by Oprah’s bedtime story style, but still love the music. It almost makes watching the episodes a second time worth it just to experience the peaceful majesty of nature.
Overall, LIFE is simply captivating. It finds ways to tie everything together to make you release how amazing the life on Earth is, and that no matter how many strange or exotic behaviors are out there, there are just as many behaviors that mirror our own.
The Show: A
The DVD: A-