Earth review: Why would BBC make a nature doc without Attenborough?

Robert Redford has been drafted in for the big-screen voiceover. It’s all sorts of wrong

Is the voiceover a case of panda-ing to the American market?

Film Title: Earth One Amazing Day

Director: Richard Dale, Lixin Fan, Peter Webber

Starring: Robert Redford

Genre: Documentary

Running Time: 95 min

Fri, Oct 20, 2017, 00:00

   

One of the most resonant TV moments of 2016 is now on the big screen. I want to tell you that it’s Candice winning Great British Bake Off, but that would be a great big lie. We’re talking about the scene from Plant Earth II that saw an iguana valiantly evading a knot of racer snakes. You’ve watched it on the telly. You watched it again on YouTube. You saw it on Gogglebox. Now allow Robert Redford to talk you through it one last time.

It’s hard to fathom the point of these patched and polished theatrical releases for the BBC’s still unequalled nature footage. The individual sequences (notably stripped of any gore to secure relaxed certificates) have been strung together to give the impression that we are passing 24 hours on Earth. We meet inquisitive whales, rare pandas, even rarer monkeys and a class of insect that lives for only one day in only one part of Hungary. “Every day on Earth is amazing,” Sundance intones in full greeting-card mode. “But the Mayfly’s Day is surely the most amazing of all.” If there is a human sour enough not to enjoy the sloth swimming leisurely to meet his mate, then he or she deserves to be pickled alive.

We could argue for centuries over whether Redford or David Attenborough is the greater international treasure, but no sane case can be made for Sir David’s replacement here. Are there really Americans who will refuse to attend unless a movie star describes the cheetahs’ relentless pursuit? It’s wrong, wrong, wrong. It’s like eating mint with pork or apple sauce with roast beef. Attenborough is always dished up with BBC nature.

The footage remains splendid. It’s a pleasure to have it on the larger screen. But the savage trimming, the unsatisfactory voiceover and the artificial structure ultimately serve to diminish the experience. There’s 360 minutes of this stuff out there on DVD. Seek it out.