Is 'Our Planet' David Attenborough at his most ground-breaking? No, though was not expecting that, instead a well-made, informative, well-presented and emotionally complex series and that is the case with 'Our Planet'. Is it among his very best work? Again no, but his filmography, a rare one with not a dud in it, is full of treasures and one doesn't know where to begin picking a favourite amongst them. It is still a must see though, and as far as television series go for this year so far this was special.
'Our Planet's' fourth episode "Coastal Seas" had the daunting task of following on from three remarkable previous episodes in "One Planet", "Frozen Worlds" and "Jungles". It does so wonderfully, that it is perhaps among the weaker episodes of the series (with not quite as many memorable sequences that hit hard, were cute or made me cry) and still be fantastic (with everything that was so good before present here as well) is really quite something. Attenborough documentaries do tend to be quality-wise consistent when ranking individual episodes of each documentary, and 'Our Planet' is not exempt from that.
"Coastal Seas" can't be faulted on a visual level. The scenery is typically breath-taking, and is enhanced by cinematic-worthy photography with a wider range of techniques rarely seen before, a feast for the eyes and also expansive and intimate. Despite the environment being a beautiful one, it is also another unforgiving one, there is still much more to it than being a beautiful environment like it could be easily criticised as. The music has grandeur and whimsy without being intrusive.
While as aforementioned there aren't as many scenes that stick in the mind as much as the beginning of "One Planet", the emotionally devastating scene with the walruses or with the preening bird or seeing unique behaviours of ants, flamingoes and caterpillars, that doesn't stop "Coastal Seas" from having the right amount of emotion and tension. There is more of a sense of jeopardy, more tension between prey and predator and more of a balance of the cute and sinister. The sharks are indeed as fearsome as promised. There were moments that illuminated and were not so familiar and were amazing at how they were filmed in the first place.
The animals are hard to forget and have interesting individual stories, ones that humans can relate to without over-humanising. The heavy emphasis on conservation/the environment for the series overall, and re-visited in all the episodes, has been criticised, didn't have a problem with it personally. Didn't feel lectured to, it made me think of the causes, consequences and how to stop it and it is something important to talk about and be addressed.
As one can expect, the narration is very thought-provoking and never rambling or speculative. There are some interesting individual feeling stories here throughout and so many of the species are easy to relate to. A lot of information is covered but felt properly explored and not rushed or disjointed, and the facts educate and illuminate while not being compromised for the emotionally complex storytelling. Once again, Attenborough's distinctive and unequalled narrative delivery, with his unmistakable voice, is sincere, enthusiastic as well as understated. One can listen to him for a long time and not tire of him, no other nature/wildlife documentary narrator/presenter has made me feel this way.
Summing up, excellent. 10/10
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