Ralph Potts reviews this BBC documentary film that travels through an exquisitely beautiful world – from remote island shores to the depths of our oceans – bringing viewers face to face with unexpected new landscapes.
The Review at a Glance:
(max score: 5 )
Audio/UHD Video total rating:
( Max score: 100 )
Studio and Year: BBC – 2017
MPAA Rating: NR
Feature running time: 350 minutes
Disc Format: BD-66
Video Aspect: 1.78:1
Audio Format(s): DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio
Subtitles: English SDH
Starring: David Attenborough
Directed by: Various
Music by: Hans Zimmer
Region Code: A,B,C
Release Date: March 6, 2018
Twenty years ago, BBC’s Natural History Unit (NHU) set out to make a series on the world’s oceans with the groundbreaking original Blue Planet. Now, with new understandings of marine science and advances in underwater filmmaking, the NHU returns to the underwater depths. During more than four years of filming, the Blue Planet II crew mounted 125 expeditions, visited 39 countries, spent over 6,000 hours diving, and filmed on every continent and across every ocean.
Captured in stunning 4K Ultra HD, Blue Planet II explores the latest frontiers of scientific discovery, from icy-white polar seas to vibrant blues of the coral atolls, from the storm-tossed green Atlantic coastline to the black depths of the alien deep. Viewers will encounter surprising new landscapes such as methane volcanos which erupt in the Gulf of Mexico, creating underwater lakes of poisonous brine; and the so-called “Boiling Sea” phenomenon in the Pacific Ocean. And by taking two manned submersibles to Antarctic waters to 1000m for the very first time, the series will bring a “new world” to the audience. The series also witnesses the great changes and threats to the health of our ocean. Never before has there been a more crucial time to explore our remotest seas and examine what the future might hold for our blue planet.
Through dazzling underwater imagery captured in extreme geographical conditions worldwide, Blue Planet II delivers an unprecedented journey into the least known regions of our planet. Astonishing new creatures, including hairy-chested Hoff crabs; snub fin dolphins that spit water through the air; and Pacific leaping blennies, have been filmed for the first time, and the crew was able to capture some extraordinary examples of behavior, such as sophisticated hunting between a coral grouper and a reef octopus; giant trevally that catch flying birds in mid-air; and a dive with a sperm whale mother and calf, as she heads deep in to the abyss to hunt.
The series’ camera teams have worked on every continent, and across every ocean, often in collaboration with marine scientists. They have developed new filming technologies, including UHD ‘tow cams’ that allow predatory fish and dolphins to be filmed front-on; UHD suction cams which enable the viewer to ‘travel’ on the back of large creatures such as whale sharks and orcas; and a motion control rig, which is used to shoot time-lapse footage in the ocean, to reveal previously unseen wild behaviors.
It is a cinematic adventure that invites viewers of all ages to look at the ocean and appreciate its great natural mystery. The stunning documentary footage aims to captivate as well as provide understanding of humankind’s relationship to the ocean and stress the urgency of making sustainable change.
Blue Planet II is an interesting documentary, that, over the course of its runtime, makes no bones about its message, which I didn’t have a problem with. Whether you buy into the various theories about global warming etc. this film is worth checking out, if for nothing else, then to glean its beautiful imagery and information about undersea wildlife and the ocean.
Addendum A (Filming Firsts):
• The ingenious Tuskfish breaks open hard-shelled clams by cracking them against coral outcrops. This is the first time that this behavior has been filmed professionally in detail.
• Giant Trevally fish aggregate off a beach from which fledgling terns are learning to fly. If the birds land on the water, the Giant Trevallies will attack from beneath. Most incredibly though, if the birds are flying low enough to the surface of the water the Giant Trevallies will launch themselves out of the water and grab them in mid-air! This was a “fisherman’s tale” that proved true – the predatory behavior of these aerial predators had not been studied before.
• Grouper fish use the fish equivalent of sign language to reach across the vertebrate-invertebrate divide and encourage another species to help them hunt. Until now, this kind of gesturing behavior has been associated mainly with apes and birds such as ravens.
• In New Zealand, False Killer whales form relationships with Bottlenose dolphins – an entirely different species. Both False Killers and dolphins have been documented socializing and foraging together. This is the first time this behavior has been filmed professionally and it was filmed by the Blue Planet II team both from the air and underwater.
• Working from science and exploration vessel the Alucia, the Blue Planet II “Deep” team and scientists mounted an expedition off the central coast of Chile to film Humboldt squid from a submersible. The team captured squid hunting at depth – and even cannibalism. This was the first sub dive into the squid zone.
• For the very first time, the Blue Planet II “Deep” team has filmed violent eruptions from methane volcanoes, of bubbles of gas the size of basketballs shooting out of the seabed almost a half-mile down.
• No human has ever before been to where the “Deep” team landed on its final filming expedition – a thousand meters beneath shifting icebergs the size of a city-block off the tip of the Antarctic Peninsula. The Blue Planet II team were the first humans to film, from manned submersibles, the unimaginable abundance of life from fish with anti-freeze in their blood to fields of giant sponges and swarms of krill that glow in the dark.
• Male and female shrimp enter the Venus Flower Basket sponge when they are small, but eventually become too big to get out. This means that they spend the rest of their lives entrapped inside. This is the first time that these shrimp have been filmed in situ in the deep sea.
• In Hanifaru, when plankton levels become dense, chains of feeding Manta rays loop around to form a “cyclone” of as many as 150 Reef Manta rays. This was filmed for the first time from the air.
• Silky sharks and Blacktip sharks were filmed rubbing up against pregnant Whale sharks in the Galapagos for the first time.
• The octopus grabs shells and rocks in its suckers and uses them as body armor as a camouflage and physical defense strategy against predators like sharks. This behavior was discovered by naturalist Craig Forster and is new to science.
• Sea lions work together to hunt tuna in a labyrinth of small bays in the Galapagos Islands – a behavior not filmed professionally until Blue Planet II.
This film is appropriate for all audiences.
AUDIO/VIDEO – By The Numbers:
REFERENCE = 92-100/EXCELLENT = 83-91/GOOD = 74-82/AVERAGE = 65-73/BELOW AVERAGE = under 65
**My audio/video ratings are based upon a comparative made against other high definition media/blu-ray disc.**
(Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)
- Low frequency effects:
- Surround Sound presentation:
- Dialog Reproduction:
- DSU/DTS Neural:X Rating * (non-rated element):
UHD Presentation: 96
(Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)
- HDR: Dark Highlights:
- HDR: Bright Highlights:
- HDR: Expanded Color:
- Visual Impact:
Blue Planet II comes to Ultra HD Blu-ray from BBC Worldwide featuring 2160pHEVC encoded video that has an average bitrate of 58 Mbps and lossless DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio sound that has an average bitrate of 2.2 Mbps.
For its presentation in Ultra HD Blue Planet II (filmed in 4K/2160p) was rendered from a 4K DI. This is a high-quality Ultra HD presentation that boasts brilliant color, superlative depth, and an abundance of high level detail. The nature defined color palette is alluring as the deep, vivid, blues, resplendent earth tones, and vast array of undersea hues, leap from the 1.78:1 framed video. Contrast balance is spot on and blacks are delineated, deep, and rich. Resolution is excellent as the vastness and scope of the recorded elements offers lucid, three-dimensional acuity that looks terrific. I did note a few instances of banding, occurring in the darkest depths, where light became scarce, but otherwise saw no issues worthy of complaint.
These beautifully captured images of our planet can be captivating as the richness of color, transparently rendered detail, and near infinite sense of depth and dimension are assuredly conveyed in Ultra HD. Those that enjoy showing off their 4K/HDR displays have another go to disc in Blue Planet II.
The lossless DTS-HD MA soundtrack delivers the elements contained within this documentary film with no issue. David Attenborough’s running narration is clearly rendered, with smooth intonation, and adequate prioritization. The front three channels are integrated well, and combine high level detail/clarity with pinpoint imaging. Han Zimmer’s music has appreciable top end air, smoothly rendered instrumentation, and discerning focus as its primary elements are delivered through the front speakers with low level rear channel ambience used to broaden the soundstage. The surrounds are effectively used to generate an enveloping soundscape filled with the various undersea sounds, and near field panning effects. LFE presence is notable as bass response extends deep enough to engage the room when called upon. This isn’t an aggressive surround mix but this audio presentation mates perfectly with the source and sound great.
For those not familiar with the details regarding Ultra HD Blu-ray you can refer to my article that includes some pertinent data on the subject. Here is the link:
- Disc 1: Blue Planet II Ultra HD Episodes 1-3
Disc 2: Blue Planet II Ultra HD Episodes 4-5
Disc 3: Blue Planet II Ultra HD Episodes 6-7
Disc 4: “Into the Blue” – Behind the Scenes Stories of Blue Planet II’s Most Memorable Moments (54 Minutes)
Captured in beautiful 4K Ultra High Definition, Blue Planet II is a cinematic adventure that invites viewers of all ages to look at the ocean and appreciate its great natural mystery, as its stunning documentary footage aims to captivate as well as provide understanding. It comes to Ultra HD Blu-ray from BBC Worldwide featuring sparkling, reference quality video, excellent lossless surround sound and a fair supplemental offering. I found Blue Planet II to be interesting, informational, and visually arresting. If you’re a fan of documentary films of its type, it comes highly recommended on Blu-ray.
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Reference Review System:
JVC DLA-RS500 3D/4K Ready High Definition Front Projector
(Calibrated with Calman 5 & C6-HDR Meter from Spectracal)
Stewart Filmscreen – Studiotek 130 G3 100” 16×9 Screen
Carada Masquerade Electronic Horizontal Masking System
Marantz AV7704 Audio/Video Processor
Sherbourn Technologies – 7/200 Seven Channel Amplifier
B&K Reference 200.7 Series 2 Seven Channel Amplifier
Oppo UDP-203 Ultra HD Blu-ray Player
Sony Playstation 3 Blu-ray disc Player
System Controller: Apple iPad/iRule Pro HD Universal Remote Control
Canton “Ergo” and Canton In-Ceiling Series Speakers
SVS Ultra Surrounds (Gloss Finish in Bipolar Configuration)
SVS PB-13 Ultra (Rosenut finish)
SVS SB-13 Ultra (Piano Gloss finish)
Panamax M5400-PM Power Conditioner/Surge Protector
Wireworld, Better Cables (Silver Serpent) – Audio/Video/Speaker Cabling
AC Infinity Aircom T8 Component Cooling Systems