On Blu-Ray: Frozen Planet
Narrated by: David Attenborough
The BBC started a trend in nature documentaries that has made them more mainstream than they’ve ever been. Planet Earth, shot in spectacular HD came at the perfect time. It was a solidly made nature doc and it was so beautiful to look at that it became the defacto demo blu-ray to show off new blu-ray players and HD TV’s which were at a high in sales at the point that the blu-ray set was released. Now other companies are looking to capitalize on the success of Planet Earth. No one does it better than the originator though as is defined by the BBC release of Frozen Planet.
Frozen Planet is a seven episode documentary series covering the animal life of the North and South Poles. One extremely smart thing that the BBC does with these documentaries is they build riveting stories around the animals that they follow rather than going with little vignettes which was the classic nature doc formula. Also, as is common with most modern nature documentaries this one is message driven; especially when it comes to the rapid melting of the ice in the North Pole and the potential danger it creates for the polar bears that live there. The message is strong but it never feels too aggressive or insulting until the final episode of the group. The final episode does focus specifically on the shrinking ice and how it effects the wildlife in the rugged areas. The true focus is on the particular animals the documentarians are following, whether it be polar bears on the North Pole or penguins on the South Pole.
The bulk of the episodes are broken by season; Spring, Summer, Autumn, and Winter. These episodes follow animals on both poles and show how the Poles and their lives change from season to season. The first episode titled The Ends of the earth is prep for the rest of the documentary. It introduces the viewer to the world that will be covered in the full series. It feels a bit rushed but it does offer up information that is helpful throughout the remaining episodes. There is one surprising episode that is quite intriguing titled The Last Frontier which focuses on humans that live in these extreme climates including natives and scientists researching the effects of the Polar Ice Caps on the global climate. One particularly harrowing segment follows Inuit men as they risk their lives to retrieve bird eggs from cliffs.
Frozen Planet is what you expect, an entertaining look at the world around us. It does have a few flaws this go around though, most notably the repetitive nature of some scenes. I actually checked the menu once to make sure I wasn’t replaying an episode I had already watched. This says to me that the documentary as a whole could have been just a little shorter. This is a minor flaw because it doesn’t happen to often.
As you might expect this 1080 HD video is nothing short of jaw dropping. The crisp blues and whites are properly blinding with the reflection of the sun with almost no artifacts to be found. Contrast and detail are both spot on. The cracks and ripples in the glaciers and the individual strands of of fur on the bears are all easily visible here. The presentation oddly is in 1080i rather than 1080p which is the standard for most HD releases these days but I couldn’t tell any shortcomings in fidelity due to this choice.
Like the video the audio here is top notch. You get a DTS HD 5.1 presentation that really feels like it surrounds you. The entire soundstage gets attention with the quiet ambient sounds of these desolate parts of the world. Narration and music are crystal clear and clean from beginning to end too. This is easily one of the best sounding documentaries ever released to home video right up there with Planet Earth.
The Packaging and Bonus Features
The Blu-rays come packaged in a standard thick BD blue amaray case with attractive if a little bland artwork. The cover sells it which is what matters it just could have been a little more creative.
First up are a total of 47 2 to 3 minute long short videos under the selection Production Diaries. These shorts offer just a little insight into many different aspects of the production. They’re all interesting but painfully short making them feel rushed. The big misstep here is there is no “Play All” button. Why not?? Each episode of the series also gets a 10 minute making of that covers the challenges of crafting this project. These making of featurettes are a little healthier than the production diaries but even these could have been longer.
“Science at the Ends of the earth” is a 20 minute look at a high tech research facility at the South Pole. This little documentary is really interesting although it could have been outtake material from one of the episodes of the main doc.
“Frozen Planet: The Epic Journey” is an hour long sort of highlight reel of the entire documentary series. If you’ve watched all 6 episodes of the main documentary then there’s nothing new to see here. In fact it feels like too much good stuff got cut out for this shortened version for it to actually be worth watching.
There’s also a music only viewing option which is kind of cool if you’re just running this in the background and just want the imagery on screen.
Where are the filmmaker audio commentaries? Some of what here is great but there should be more. This series deserves more behind the scenes material.
Yes some brief sections of Frozen Planet are a bit redundant but overall it’s another fantastic entry in a growing library of amazing BBC nature documentaries.
Overall (Not an Average) 9/10
The Movie 9/10
The Video 10/10
The Audio 10/10
The Packaging and Bonus Features 7/10
Overall (Not an Average) 9/10