BBC’s documentary moves through four main phases, beginning with a groupAstralopithicus afarensis, and then stopping at other important milestones in our evolution,taking time to examine the dead ends (such as the Neanderthals) as well. The first half is plaguedby an excessively digressive narrative and massive overuse of time lapse photography. Theapemen are wonderfully rendered by real actors in make-up, but their interaction with CGI beastsproduces effects that aren’t qu…te as seamless as in the other (all-CGI) series. All that said, this isstill a great documentary, as lively as it is informative.
The music is given a very powerful mix, though never at the expense of the clear, warm,distrotion-free quality of Andrew Sachs’ narration. The music is so strong, in fact, that it hogsalmost all the rear speaker time to itself. As a result, there are a few missed opportunities as far assound effects are concerned (the crocodile attack early in the film is a good example). When themusic does stop, allowing space for the sound effects, they are good (very nice rain effects inparticular).
The format is 1.78:1 widescreen (though with no indication of anamorphic). The transfer isfirst-rate, with startlingly brilliant colours, deep blacks and contrasts, and no edge enhancementproblems at all (unusual given how dark the figures tend to be). There is one poor moment,however, at the climax to a trip through an animal’s digestive tract. Just as we, from the pointof view of the digested food, re-emerge and hit the ground, the picture breaks up completely.
Interviews galore on offer here. There are three post-production interviews, with producersRichard Dale and Peter Georgi (this is the longest, at 15 minutes), actor David Rubin, andanimated extras director Nick Williams. Then there are 5 on-location interviews. The one wherewe see two actors, in full Boisei make-up, having lunch is priceless. Two hunting sequences aregiven the storyboard-to-animatics-to-film comparison treatment, and the same two sequencesare available for examination in storyboards alone. The mammoth hunt is also shown solo in itsanimatics stage. A score feature plays 9 separate cues, the fact files summarize the differentspecies studied, there’s a captioned photo gallery, and finally there are trailers for BBC America,Walking with Prehistoric Beasts, Blue Planet, and Walking with Dinosaurs/Allosaurus.
This may not be the monumental exercise that Walking with Dinosaurs was, but it is stilltop-notch television, and a disc that will amply reward viewing. The menu’s main page isanimated and scored.
Special Features List
- Post-Production Interviews
- On-Location Interviews
- Storyboard-Animatics-Film Comparisons
- Animatics Sequence
- Score Selections
- Fact Files
- Photo Gallery