Planet Earth: Blue Planet II premieres January 20th, 9pm on BBC America.
By Greg Wheeler
Four years, 125 expeditions across 39 countries and over 6000 hours of underwater dive footage. The numbers speak for themselves – Blue Planet II is a documentary of epic proportions. From the awe-inspiring deep-sea chasms and the creatures that inhabit them, through to the coastal wildlife that reside alongside crashing waves and rocky outcroppings, Blue Planet II is a comprehensively crafted, perfect illustration of just how special our watery world really is. Boasting groundbreaking filming techniques and a blockbuster orchestral score, this series is an incredible filming achievement.
The documentary explores different regions of the sea in each of its seven distinct episodes, exploring the crowded coral reef through to the isolated blue desert of the open sea. If you’ve seen other BBC nature documentaries then you’ll be at home with the feel and layout of these episodes as beautiful, picturesque landscape shots are used to break up individual stories of animals as they go about their normal day to day routine. The episodes go in depth showing the incredibly delicate eco systems of these animals as well as showing some new species, helped along by the returning David Attenborough as the voice over narrator. His calming voice is as pleasant as it is charming and his continued passion and enthusiasm for these projects is inspiring, especially for a man who’s over 90.
The breathtaking imagery and technically challenging shots that are shown in this documentary are a step up from the previous Blue Planet and arguably from every other nature documentary too. Whilst this sounds like a bold statement, everything from the lighting to the framing, right up to the intricate camera movements are on point and at times it’s so mesmerizing to see these majestic creatures in their habitat. The deep ocean has always been a mystery, we’ve explored more of the surface of Mars than we have our deep seas Attenborough informs early on and he’s right. Our oceans are a constant mystery to us and helped along by great narration and dazzlingly beautiful imagery, Blue Planet II attempts to right that wrong.
For all its beauty, there’s an ugly side to the show and one that speaks as a warning to each and every one of us. We are killing our oceans and the creatures that live in them. From bleached coral reefs to water pollution and environmental waste, Blue Planet II show this to shocking effect. Although this documentary is sadly unlikely to be the wake-up call a lot of people need to the dangers and problems our natural world is facing, there’s a strong message here nonetheless and a lot of this is achieved through the shocking footage of the damage human beings are inflicting on the ocean. Whether you believe in climate change or not is irrelevant. What is important is understanding the damaging effect dumping millions of tons of waste into our water is causing to our natural world. There is some genuinely upsetting footage shot of this and Blue Planet II is all the better for it, especially considering how far a reach the show has managed to achieve.
After the overwhelming success of Planet Earth II, it was always going to be a tough mountain to climb to reach that level of excellency. Blue Planet II not only reaches that level, it surpasses it. Boasting some incredibly sophisticated shots, brilliant lighting and the staple narration from David Attenborough to help craft the stories of the animals, Blue Planet II is simply a phenomenal documentary. It’s a perfect celebration of just how wonderful our oceans really are and the underlying message about the damage we’re doing to this paradise is powerful and hits hard. This should be a wakeup call that we need to protect our oceans and do everything we can to save the species that live there before it’s too late. Blue Planet II is quite simply a masterpiece and an incredible piece of television that deserves acclaim for what it’s managed to achieve. If there’s one documentary you watch this year, make it Blue Planet II.
I give Blue Planet II an A.