In the 16 years since Blue Planet last aired film technology has seen staggering change, from cameras to manned submersibles, from drones to High Definition screens across most of Australia.
At the same time the oceans have been subjected to rapid ecological decline. And while he is now 91 years old Sir David Attenborough remains the constant -a supreme storyteller, backed with the mighty resources of the BBC.
Blue Planet II took more than 4 years to film, but the results are a joy from beginning to end.
Attenborough appears briefly in the first episode to set the scene that the oceans encompass 70% of the planet, yet remain under explored. For the record he attributes degradation of the oceans as “most likely a consequence of human activity” but his focus remains preservation and education.
“Never has there been a more crucial time to reveal what is going on beneath the surface of the seas,” he says.
Backed by his producers, director, photographers, sound, researchers and more, Attenborough serves as tour guide of a parade of high drama. Here sea creatures become characters, and segments serve as small narratives.
On the Great Barrier Reef we meet the quirky, persistent Tusk Fish, which has mastered the art of smashing open small clams for food.
“Some fish are much cleverer than you might suppose,” Attenborough suggests.
Off the Seychelles the giant trevally fish leap from the water to snatch birds hovering above the surface. Warning: backed by dramatic music from Hans Zimmer, this is like something from a Piranha movie.
There is a ballet-like sequence between stingray and plankton, the latter now glowing thanks to new camera technology. There are sea otters, urchins and dragons and a curious exchange between false killer whales and bottle-nosed dolphins off New Zealand.
Wait for the striking, bulbous Kobudai fish from Japan which has the ability to change genders. Very now.
“Inside every female Kobudai there is a new male in waiting,” Attenborough reveals.
Further north we meet killer whales rounding on herring, which makes for a visually stunning sight, later joined by humpback whales (it’s not clear why we overlook that the former is a predator of the latter).
Finally, it is hard not to become affected by the plight of walruses in the Arctic, facing diminishing ice floes, as indeed are their natural predators, the polar bear. How does the animal kingdom endure when climate change is impacting their territory?
Throughout this excellent work the cinematography is superb. On an HD screen, shimmering auroras hang in the sky while giant waves in slow motion unfold like mother nature’s curtain. The strings and choirs wrapped up in the soundtrack, together with Attenborough’s assuring tones, add a cinematic quality.
The effect is quite spellbinding and Nine will follow with the shorter “Making Of,” also narrated by Attenborough, with each episode.
Don’t miss it.
7pm Saturday on Nine.