Spanning 40 countries and filmed by a passionate camera crew of 89 people across 2089 days, Planet Earth II is simply one of the greatest nature documentaries of all time. The 6 episodes are full of awe-inspiring imagery, masterful cinematography and an emotionally charged narrative used to showcase some of the species of our planet. Planet Earth II is a love letter to our beautiful planet; it’s an incredible filming achievement and one of the best nature documentaries ever made, far surpassing the work of its predecessor 10 years ago.
The format in Planet Earth II is similar to other BBC nature documentaries. For those unfamiliar with the format, the calming voice of David Attenborough guides viewers through various locations around the world to discover the lives and eco-systems of creatures that live on this planet. Planet Earth did a great job of broadly exploring the areas across the planet ranging from the darkest caves to the highest mountains. Planet Earth II continues this trend with its 6 episodes ranging from tropical islands to the grasslands. Whereas the first Planet Earth was a much more passive experience, showing a huge amount of information across its episodes, Planet Earth II is cleverly designed to manipulate your emotions in the best way possible. Whether it be an incredibly tense chase by a pack of razor snakes or the hilarious back-scratching bears, Planet Earth II is a roller coaster of emotion and it solidifies Planet Earth II as the benchmark for which all other nature documentaries must be based on.
The cinematography has always been good in these documentaries but Planet Earth II pushes the boundaries with an incredible display of technicality with its shots. Whether it be point of view aerial shots alongside eagles or comprehensive time-lapse technology to show how plants fight for territory in the lush jungles, Planet Earth II effortlessly showcases how technically adept its camera crew are whilst crafting these shots into an absorbing story.
The excellent orchestral score throughout the series further reinforces how impressive this documentary is. The fast drum-heavy tracks are used to emphasise tension during some of the most dramatic moments. Playful, major key melodies warm the light-hearted segments and this consistent harmony between the music and imagery is a joy to watch. The lighting is sublime here too and showcases a sophistication lacking in other documentaries of this style.
Planet Earth II is simply one of the best nature documentaries ever made. It pushes the bar of what’s possible in this format, boasts incredible cinematography and an epic orchestral score to back it up. The six episodes showcase some of the most beautiful landscapes on our planet and comprehensively break down the eco-systems of our species whilst weaving this into compelling stories for each of the creatures explored. Planet Earth II raises the bar and sets a benchmark which all nature documentaries will be based on from here onward. The word legendary is thrown around a lot but it’s absolutely justified when describing Planet Earth II.