Life Blu-ray Review

Following the success of Planet Earth, we get Life. Another great documentary that takes a look at the magnificent beauty found across the planet. Life manages to continue where Planet Earth left off and offer viewers a fresh take on various subjects. Plants, animals, deserts, oceans, etc. all are a part of our planet and Life examines all these things one by one with much attention. There are a few things that make their way back from Planet Earth, but this time around a new look and view has been provided in order to keep the subject fresh. This very thing is what sets Life apart from Planet Earth.

Obviously, there are way too many things in this planet that it would be impossible to cover them in a ten (10) one hour episodes. Life grasps on a small piece that makes Earth…well Earth. The series is split into the following 10 episodes:

Challenges of Life
This is an incredible way to open up the series with an impressive way to lead the way for the remaining of the series. This first episode touches on the idea of reproduction and animals having to adapt and evolve in order to survive. The show deals with all types of animal families and gives an overview of life and how adaptable we must become to our surroundings in order to prosper.

Reptiles and Amphibians
This episode deals with reptiles and amphibians and talks about their way of life, their ability to adapt to survive from predators. The evolution that some animals had to go through in order to continue living and well…eating. This episode features a few similar subjects from Challenges of Life, but it does offer a new and extensive look into the topic at hand. It does not offer the same information the second time around. There are some very interesting topics in this episode.

Mammals
This is the most extensive and diverse segment of them all. This episode showcases mammals and their particular way of living. We get to see the difficulty some of these mammals have in order to survive. There is an equal amount of humor as there is of gore, but one must realize this is how the animal kingdom behaves. More importantly is how captured and explained on screen is. There are so very impressive shots all around this episode that will leave more than a few viewers wanting more.

Fish
This episode opens up with a beautiful beach, sun, and surfing before the crew takes us to the deep to begin exploring the what’s beneath the waves. The documentary focuses on various fishes from predators to gentle giants. There’s also some in depth look at the coral reefs and the ecosystem surrounding it.

Birds
This episode takes a look at the birds and gives the viewers a unique look at some of the most majestic birds out there. Their particular way of hunting, living, and surviving on the wilderness is looked in many ways during this episode. This is perhaps one of the episodes that shows more raw imagery than some of the other episodes, but is all in order to teach us more about our avian friends. There are quite a few treats in this episode that viewers should not miss.

Insects
This episode deals entirely about insects. Me not being all interested in bugs found some of the information more than interesting. There’s enough for everyone in here, it’s not all about the disgusting buggers that you see on your daily life, there’s also the beautiful side of it. There’s an incredible display of that Monarch butterflies that’s tagged along to some very interesting information. So sit back and enjoy.

Hunters and the Hunted

This isn’t your typical show that only focuses on how hunters use their instincts to pray on more defenseless animals, but also on how some of those considered “prey” use their environment to escape using some ingenious ways. It’s always interesting to see how some animals will use in order to escape grave danger. This is one of the best pieces of this series.

Creatures of the Deep
This episode deals with the invertebrates of the deep seas. There are various sea creatures that I was complete unaware of their existence. There is plenty to see in this episode. It does feel a bit off from the rest of the series though.

Plants
This is based entirely on plants and it begins with beautiful scenery. There is some material recycled over from the first episode, but this time more in-depth information is provided. The way of showing how a plant grows is very impressive. This is another strong entry in the series.

Primates

The last entry of the series is perhaps the most interesting and possibly the best of the entire show. This episode looks at the most intelligent of mammals on the face of the planet. The show gives us a look at their social networks, their hunting abilities, way of interaction, and their homes. I personally enjoy the way the show ends with this last entry.

When Life was announced for Blu-ray, there was an instant cry from fans of the documentary, why? Because Oprah Winfrey was selected as the narrator for the Discovery Channel’s North American version of Life. This obviously left some aficionados displeased as the narration of the iconic David Attenborough had been replaced by a more widely known celebrity like Oprah. For what reasons did Discovery Channel decided to do this? I am not sure and I am not going to go find out either. I can tell you that the inclusion of Oprah will probably keep a certain percentage of buyers away from this version and drive them to the BBC version simply because of David Attenborough’s narration.

Before you completely rule out this version, I must say that Oprah did a good job. Not great or excellent, but good. She is definitely no Attenborough, but Oprah does offer a commanding narration during most segments. I do feel that sometimes she doesn’t really express the awe feeling nor does she make the viewers feel that she is just as impressed by the beautiful imagery being displayed across the screen. At times it seems like she is just statically reading from a prompter without knowing what’s going on in the picture. Again, these are only a few observations I have taken notice from my first viewing of the show and I am sure I am not the only one that shares this notions. However, these instances are only occasional and they don’t plague throughout the entire show. Oprah does offer long instances where her narration allows people to become engaged with the picture. She brings vigor and life to her narration.

Life arrives on Blu-ray with a 1080i VC-1 encode framed at 1.78:1. While not a 1080p transfer, this 1080i version looks absolutely fantastic. The colors are vibrant and livelier. Black levels are well reproduced throughout the show. Fine detail is very impressive throughout! Fur, scales, jungle, you name it! They all look fantastic. I wish I could tell you that this transfer was flawless, but unfortunately that is not the case. There are several scenes that are soft along with some artifacts and banding found in almost every episode. However, don’t let this fool you into believing Life looks bad because it really doesn’t. This Blu-ray release looks fantastic as most of the nature related releases.

Life arrives on Blu-ray with a 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track. Moving on, the narration provided by none other than Oprah Winfrey sounds clean and clear at all times during the show, giving her that presence with her voice. The show allows for the soundstage too be filled by the sounds of nature only when there is a pause from the narration and at that very moment the track handles it quite well. The LFE output is great and directionality is excellent. The rears are used from time to time for atmospheric effects. There is a second Dolby Digital audio only track for those looking for no narration during the show. Overall, Life sounds good.

Life features a small set of supplements like Life on Location which feel more like actual extensions of each episode than separate supplements. The rest is nice to have, but I think that there could of been more additions to make this a complete package.

Life on Location – This features a behind the scenes for each episode and it deals with the making of each episode, difficulties of filming, the locales, etc. Each episode has a Life on Location documentary.

The Making of Life – This features Oprah introducing the crew and filmmakers that brought you Life. It continues to stress the difficulty of making this series.

Deleted Scenes – This features several scenes with finalized narration that didn’t make the final cut.

Music Only Viewing Mode – This allows the viewers to view each episode without any narration and only listen to the musical cue in the background.

This is one of the best nature series out there at the moment. Sure, is not as epic as Planet Earth was when originally released, but it holds on its own. The repetition of some of the segments will most likely annoy some viewers, but overall the show attempts a fresh new look at that particular segment. While Warner has decided to release the original BBC series of Life narrated by David Attenborough, the Discovery Channel has chosen to release the American version with the narration of Oprah Winfrey that will sure keep some fans from buying. Those who can’t wait and get their hands on this fine release will surely get their money’s worth. I highly recommended.