So we dug out the Planet Earth box set last night. Absolutely breathtaking stuff. I hadn’t watched it for a few years, and I’d forgotten how awe-inspiringly beautiful it is. As long as the BBC continue to make natural history programmes of this standard, I really don’t care what else they do. Go and buy it/rent it/download it now if you haven’t already seen it. I guarantee, hand on heart, that you will not be disappointed.
And now a little rant.
The entire series – all eleven episodes – was made for £16 million. Expensive for a TV series, yes, but worth every penny. So how come film-makers like James Cameron are happy to spend ten times that amount attempting (and failing) to replicate the beauty of nature when all they need to do is strap a camera to the bottom of a helicopter?
There are places on Earth infinitely more alien than Cameron’s garish, prog-rock Pandora. Just in the first episode alone, you get to see some of the most stunning landscapes on the planet, such as the Okavango Delta and the immense Taiga forest (containing a third of all the trees on Earth). It really is jaw-dropping stuff.
Some film-makers know how to use location to their advantage – Peter Jackson wasn’t just making films about midgets and jewellery, he was also showing the world New Zealand – but they’re few and far between. CGI film technology has advanced in some astonishing ways in the last couple of decades, but it has also brought with it a laziness and a belief that reality isn’t good enough for our imaginations.
Cinema has the power to open up a window onto the splendour of our bizarre, varied planet, but most of the time we’re made to look at the wallpaper instead.
(That’s a Tibetan Fox up there by the way. Very pretty it is too.)