David Attenborough was scooped up by Netflix some years ago. I wondered why. To outdo the BBC? How could decades of extraordinary filmmaking be advanced? See the series Our Planet to find out.
I’ve enjoyed nature documentaries since I was a boy watching with my dad in the 60s. Technology in making films certainly advances. Our scientific knowledge continues to expand. Sir David’s efforts to bring the wonders of nature into our living rooms benefits from all this moving forward. For a time in the 90s and 00s it seemed as if each documentary inched ahead of the previous one in terms of the wonders presented, the abilities of the cinematographers, and the overall pace and narrative of the programs.
I can’t say I found this new streaming effort to be very far ahead of its BBC predecessors. It has a very familiar vibe: great soundtrack, trusted narration and scripting, a measured movement through natural scenes. This series, though, leans more heavily to the serious concerns of climate change and human pressure on natural environments. The occasional light-hearted depictions of “nature-cute” are fewer, and the inevitable impact of human encroachment is emphasized.
I’d place my experience slightly below Sir David’s most recent efforts. There’s something missing, and I can’t quite put my finger on it. I didn’t find Our Planet overly preachy–though it does preach. I’m certainly in need of no convincing on the matter of human-influenced climate change or the problems of disappearing ecosystems. Will a denier or exploiter tune in to Netflix and be converted? I doubt it. This feels a bit like a recruiting film: to intensify the existing feelings in favor of a more direct approach to environmental advocacy. It’s not that we don’t need that.
Still, recommended viewing.