Consider the first 'Planet Earth' one of the finest documentaries ever made and one of the best series ever made on anything. A perfect representation of what makes David Attenborough so deservedly highly regarded and his remarkably consistent body of work (even his lesser work is still good) as delightful as it is.
'Planet Earth II' is every bit as exceptional (even if not quite ground-breaking) and easily a 2016 television highlight, its acclaim is more than deserved. "Deserts" doesn't disappoint in any shape or form, it may not be Attenborough at his most ground-breaking when it comes to talking about the deserts but one doesn't care when everything is done so well. Like with the previous episodes, in "Deserts" this may be reiterating what has been said many times about Attenborough's work, but pretty much everything he's done, even those that are not quite masterpiece status, has consistently the same strengths so it's unavoidable. It is an awe-inspiring, utterly transfixing experience where one forgets they're watching a documentary and instead feeling like they're watching art, that couldn't be higher praise for anything. May seem like hyperbole to some, but to me it is richly deserved.
"Deserts" first and foremost looks amazing. It is gorgeously filmed, done in a completely fluid and natural, sometimes intimate (a great way of connecting even more with the animals and even the mountains themselves), way and never looking static. In fact much of it is remarkably cinematic. The desert settings have beauty, wonder and danger.
For a composer that composes normally bombastic, rousing and pulse-racing music that is epic even in the quieter moments, Hans Zimmer's music here is a remarkably good fit. It's unmistakably Zimmer in style but throughout it not only complements the visuals but enhances them. The main theme is impossible to forget.
What of the narrative aspects? Can't fault "Deserts" in this aspect either. The narration has a great well-balanced mix of facts that will be familiar to the viewer and others that will induce the right amount of surprise. In short, it's just fascinating, informative and thoughtful.
Nothing but credit is due too for adhering to what made 'Planet Earth' work the first time and then bringing a freshness with a few nice ideas to avoid it being too stale. Attenborough delivers all this information beautifully in a way only he can achieve, there's a soft-spoken enthusiasm, sincerity and precision about his delivery and he never preaches while knowing what to say and how and when to say it.
The animals are adorable and dangerous, with the lions providing the most suspenseful moments of the series, the attack on the giraffe is frightening. How they adapt to survive and their obstacles are shown very believably.
Like Attenborough's best work, "Deserts" and 'Planet Earth II' in general feels like its own individual story and never feels episodic or repetitive. There are real, complex emotions and conflicts and animal characters developed in a way a human character would in a film but does it better than several.
In conclusion, another wonderful entry of this consistently fabulous in quality series. 10/10 Bethany Cox
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