From the Emmy-winning team behind Planet Earth and The Blue Planet comes Frozen Planet, the epic tale of two disappearing wildernesses. The Arctic and Antarctic remain the greatest wildernesses on Earth. The scale and beauty of the scenery and the sheer power of the elements are unmatched anywhere else on our planet. And against all odds, these vast, frigid environments are teeming with life. Using the latest camera technology, Frozen Planet captures unimaginable imagery above and below the ice, and follows the extraordinary fluctuations that accompany the changes of seasons in this most extreme of environments, often for the first time. Frozen Planet takes you inside a polar bear’s den to witness a mother polar bear and her newborn cubs, showcases the thrilling hunting tactics employed by a pod of killer whales to launch a seal off an ice floe, uses time-lapse photography to allow you to witness the amazing underwater fauna thriving around Mr. Erebus, the world’s most southerly volcano, and much, much more.

Studio: BBC Warner
Year: 2012
Release Date: April 17, 2012
Run time: 300 minutes
Rating: NR

Audio: DTS HD MA lossless 5.1 mix
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
Disc Spec: 3 BD
Region: A

This is the latest flagship release of the BBC’s Natural History Unit, the next in line in the epic ‘Planet’ series after Blue Planet, Planet Earth, Life, and Human Planet. It was produced by Alastair Fothergill, executive producer of Planet Earth, and shares several similarities with that release in terms of structure and approach.

This seven-part seven-hour series covers the natural and wild habitat of the Arctic and Antarctic circles, covering indigenous life, their survival tactics, hunts, and mating cycles, as well as the landscape and natural events, most of which involve ice in dozens of surprising forms, and the extensive effects of the seasonal cycle. The first episode is a kind of overview, four more episodes cover these habitats during the four seasons, the sixth episode covers various human explorations, studies and residents of these regions, and the final controversial episode covers melting ice and global climate change.

I recently re-watched Attenborough’s Life in the Freezer (also produced by Fothergill) in preparation for this series, figuring that this would cover much of the same ground and would probably be a remake/upgrade (as with Planet Earth). Unfortunately, I guessed correctly, but this series adds the following:

- Arctic footage (Life in the Freezer only covered Antarctica). But even this footage is not always fresh, having seen polar bears, arctic wolves and other Arctic animals in many previous releases such as Planet Earth and Life.

- Breathtaking landscape footage in high definition. You’ve never seen so much ice and snow take on so many forms and do so many awe-inspiring things.

- Upgraded footage in high definition. A lot of the Antarctica footage covers the same ground as Life in the Freezer, except this time they use the latest technology and go the extra mile (or hundred miles) to create the perfect shot.

That said, I felt that Life in the Freezer, in its mere 3 hours running time, educated me better and more systematically. Although Attenborough gives us a wealth of facts and knowledge on this release, the overall writing and structure is lacking. This is mainly due to the chaotic and whimsical structure similar to Planet Earth that splices together any spectacular footage it could find regardless of its educational value. Categorizing the footage under which season it happened in is simply not enough guys.

Let’s illustrate this with a specific example: In Life in the Freezer, Attenborough discussed and showed us lichens to complete the picture of life on Antarctica. But, evidently on this release, lichens were deemed too boring and they were replaced with yet another bloody and action-packed hunt instead.
Movie Quality: 9/10

Print/Audio Quality

The print is presented in 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 with a 1:85:1 aspect ratio. Colors are deep and well saturated throughout the entire presentation. Blacks are strong and almost inky at times. Nowhere did the image ever appear soft with such strong colors and black levels. Flesh tones were also natural. The film carries a very clean look throughout which some might enjoy, while others might not be too happy with.
Print Quality: 9.5/10

The audio is presented in a DTS-HD MA l0ssless 5.1 mix. This film is a dialogue driven film with the occasional soundtrack mix peering into the soundfield. Dialogue was clean through the center channel with a nice degree of depth. I never had to raise or lower the volume to make out what was being said. The soundfield does get a few effects into play, but nothing major. The soundtrack takes advantage of the soundfield with audio also lightly pouring through the rears. I found this to be more of a front heavy experience due to the type of film.
Print Quality: 9.5/10

Special Features

  • On Thin Ice – A unique exploration into how climate change is affecting the animals and people of the polar regions and what that might mean for the rest of us.
  • Science at the Ends of the Earth – An examination of the remarkable scientific work being performed at the South Pole
  • Freeze Frame – A series of 6 10-minute “making of” featurettes, one for each episode.
  • Production Video Diaries – A set of 47 video shorts made by the Frozen Planet producers, directors, camera crew and more giving personal insights into this remarkable series.
  • Frozen Planet: The Epic Journey – The best moments from this remarkable series compiled into one 60-minute highlights special

Special Features: 8/10

Final Thoughts

I think everybody’s experience is different and it’s all in the eye of the beholder. With whatever eye that might it be, I believe everyone’s opinion is entitled to them and that if based on a rational merit, it is also relevant and valuable.
Overall Rating: 9/10