'Home' starts off like any other nature documentary, with a quick intro by the narrator, in this case Glenn Close, describing the endless beauty of our planet. She describes its majesty and wonder, its immense ecological diversity and the fact that it was in the right place at the right time to produce life. Essentially a series of photographs from various regions of Earth, the film is, of course, stunning and visually breathtaking, but at the same time we notice a lack of human activity, its motive becomes quite clear. A cross between 'Planet Earth' and 'Baraka' with a heavy dose of Al Gore's 'An Inconvenient Truth', this Luc Besson production chronicles the state our planet and how humans, as the dominant species, threaten its balance with long-term repercussions.
At the start, 'Home' feels much like an educational video you'd watch at a museum under a large dome screen or in IMAX. Directed by Yann Arthus-Bertrand, a well-known reporter and aerial photographer whose popular DVD makes television sets look like works of art ('Earth from Above'), the nature documentary contains some truly extraordinary images of single-celled algae that grow in volcanic springs, gigantic glaciers in Antarctica, magnificent waterfalls and rainforest in South America, and the migration of elephants in the marshlands of Africa. The whole thing took over a year and a half to complete and filmed in more than fifty countries. Only so many adjectives can really describe how awe-inspiring all the photography is before I end up repeating myself. But while enjoying it, there was that one phrase that kept popping up. The one which still seems to possess so much controversy and serves as a reminder that humans are to blame for destroying all this visual beauty: global warming.
'Home' also set an unprecedented record by being simultaneously released in 181 countries on theater screens, DVD, television, and YouTube, becoming the largest film premiere in history. This little effort did not come cheap and received financial sponsorship from PPR, a multinational holding company that owns luxury retail brands such as Gucci, Bottega Veneta, Sergio Rossi, and Yves Saint Laurent, as well as Puma. I mention this only because it seems a bit ironic, as some of these companies are not exactly known for their conservationist efforts or their friendliness towards animals. For a film that wishes to push Earth's change in climate due to human negligence and the selfish, greedy exploitation of the planet's natural resources, I would imagine sponsorship from a reputable group which actually aims to preserve our planet's endangered ecosystem and its inhabitants would be more beneficial. But, hey, that's just me, being an environmentalist and all.
As a fan of these sorts of documentaries, 'Home' is absolutely gorgeous to watch and Glenn Close does a fine job narrating. Her calm and palliating voice accompanying the splendid images, which sometimes look like abstract art, makes the film's educational side easy to follow and interesting. But its most fascinating aspect is the aerial photography, taken with the use of gyro-stabilized cameras attached to the base of small helicopters. Bertrand's film is really incredible to watch, with its idea of following Earth's evolution from algae to us and to some possible futures. Then there's that reminder again, like a pesky little voice in the back of mind, telling me that the existence of my species is responsible for the planet's devastation. Yes, I know this already for the nth million time!
I love watching nature documentaries. I watch them more than anything else on television (other than movies, of course). But for every time I enjoy Bertrand's amazing photography, Close's pseudo-poetic script reading of everything I do wrong is a turn-off and just about made me suicidal. Frankly, the whole thing saddens me, because Bertrand did an outstanding job on this film and his heart is in the right place, but as an educational tool for creating awareness, 'Home' leaves a pensive and sulking aftertaste. Granted, the ending is bit more uplifting, but after an hour of being shown and told of what a terrible species I am, I'm not really in the mood to get up and do something to change the course of our planet. According to 'Home', I've done enough damage.
Filmed on high-quality HD cameras, the folks at 20th Century Fox provide a spectacular reference-level 1080p/AVC-encoded transfer (1.78:1), which demonstrates the great benefits of watching nature documentaries in hi-def. The photography is beautifully captured here, with a high level of detail and pitch-perfect contrast. Visual acuity in long distance shots is a must, and this video presentation does not disappoint. There is a great deal of variance in the palette, with accurately rendered primaries and richly colorful secondary hues. Blacks are deep and intense, but allow details plenty of visibility in the shadows. The image also comes with terrific dimension and depth.
My only nitpicks are a few scenes which appear softer than the overall photography, which keeps this disc from being utterly perfect. Other than that, the picture quality of 'Home' on Blu-ray is pure reference level.
Fox also stamps a DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack to the disc, and while it may not be the equal of the picture quality, the lossless track is still impressive. That's not to say the audio arrives with any weaknesses or faults. On the contrary, the mix is very nicely delivered by a wide soundstage, with clean resolution and a few scattered ambient effects heard off-screen. The musical score by Armand Amar is well balanced across the front channels, creating an attractive and welcoming presence. Clarity and detail is very satisfying, as each instrument is distinct and well-defined. Glenn Close's vocals are effective and prioritized in the center of the screen, while low-bass response adds a realistic depth to the photography and the score.
The only small imperfection is the lack of surround activity. There really is no sense of immersion or envelopment, which is an interesting surprise for a nature documentary. But the minor bleeds of the score into the background make up for that loss in this otherwise excellent audio presentation.
Sorry, folks, nothing to see here. Please move along.
For a nature documentary, Yann Arthus-Bertrand's 'Home' provides a very depressing and bleak outlook on humanity and our precious planet. I can't imagine many people being moved to preserve Earth's fragile ecosystem after watching what could have been a truly beautiful film. This Blu-ray edition arrives with exceptional picture quality and good lossless audio, but the rest of the package offers nothing. It's worth a rental if you're interested in the visuals.
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