Amazed By Life

by Amy Kraft on June 1, 2010

I only watch TV nowadays through my DVR, so I tend to miss major TV events, like the recent BBC/Discovery Channel airing of Life, the new nature documentary from the creators of Planet Earth. Fortunately, I was recently provided a copy of Life, now on DVD.

When I think about watching a nature documentary, I think about walking into 7th Grade science class and groaning to see the projector set up, ready to be bored for the next hour. Or I think about nature clips showing in the electronics store, doing little more than showing off the picture quality of the new HD TVs. Life, however, is riveting television, bringing you up close and personal with some of the most fascinating and oddest living things on earth. Now, it’s easy to make primates interesting. You can pretty much turn the camera on a group of chimps and have interesting television. But Life makes everything from insects to plants interesting, telling stories of their life and survival.

The Life website has some of our favorite animals from the series online, including these Japanese Mud Skippers from the Fish episode. This clip doesn’t show the coolest part of the way they dig their holes, coming up to the surface and coughing up mud pellets, but here you can see their bizarro mating ritual. Jumping fish gave Olive the giggles.

Ask Olive her favorite part of the series, and she’ll tell you all about the Bombadier beetle, with the power to spray ants. I have to admit, it is pretty cool.

Oh, yeah, that’s Oprah narrating. I didn’t love her narration (wait, am I going to get struck by lightning or something for saying that?). The UK version is narrated by Sir David Attenborough, and I’m wondering if I’d like that better. There’s also a music only viewing option. When I suggest that to Olive she said, “but then how will we learn?!” Good point, kid.

I’m ready to embed all of the clips here because they’re just so cool. While watching, I was marveling not just at the animals and their behaviors, but also the ability for the filmmakers to capture such amazing things on camera. With 3,000 days of filming and a mix of new technology, including the Heli-Gimbal aerial zoom, extreme high-speed photography, low light photography and underwater time-lapse sequences, Life is as much about filmmaking as it is about animals. I watched some sequences with my mouth hanging open in amazement and disbelief. There’s a great documentary on the DVD about the making of Life. I would have loved to watch a making-of video as long as the documentary itself, because there was no footage where I didn’t wonder about how they were able to get it. With the Inside Look clips on the website, you can get a taste of this. In the Creatures of the Deep episode, they drilled through 8 feet of Antarctic ice to film the underwater creatures.

Life is one of those rare good-for-the-whole-family shows, which Olive and I enjoyed equally well. Life comes out today on DVD and Blu-ray and it’s definitely worth owning.

mamacita June 1, 2010 at 11:45 pm

I have to agree about one thing — I thought Oprah’s narration was distracting. And I _like_ Oprah. Maybe it’s because her voice is just too recognizable? I’m watching _Botany of Desire_ right now, with Frances McDormand narrating. Even though I know it’s her, I’m finding it less distracting.

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