Running late because of the obvious conspiracy between sleep and Mumbai traffic, I dashed into a quiet theatre auditorium and stopped in the tracks to see massive waves in a never-before-seen shade of blue encompassing entire screen in front of me. I was hypnotised. The effect lasted for the entirety of the two-episode screening of BBC’s Blue Planet II.
Rest of the western world got to watch the BBC’s 8 part sequel of award-winning documentaries — BBC’s Planet Earth and BBC’s Blue Planet — towards the end of 2017. Now Sony BBC Earth has brought first two episodes in cinemas so that viewers can experience the grandiose that’s a result of 125 expeditions, 39 countries, and 6,000 hours of diving in oceans surrounding all the continents. Rest will follow next month on their TV channel.
“Never has there been a more crucial time to explore what goes on beneath the surface of the seas!” says Sir David Attenborough at the beginning of the series.
“With revolutionary technology, we can enter new worlds and shine a light on behaviours in ways that were impossible just a generation ago. We’ve also come to recognize an uncomfortable fact: The health of our oceans is under threat. They’re changing at a faster rate than ever before in human history.”
With this grim reminder, we are escorted in the world that was always there but always away from the reach. Stunning as an adjective is an insult to the quality of the visuals the entire series packs in every single frame. Jaw dropping astonishment takes over your brain when you learn that the massive waves, I talked about earlier, pack the energy of 10,000 atomic bombs combined when they hit the land mass. From there, the understated, careful, and meretricious narration of Attenborough takes you closer to the uncharted ocean floors in Antarctica to show you a ballet of blue sparkles created by planktons in darker than midnight depths. The scenes make you forget Disney’s Fantasia.
The vivid coral that has been growing for four thousand years, adorable octopus, evolving sea toads, spider crabs, sixgill shark eating their food bring the pop of colour red like you have never seen before.
But visuals are not the only things great about Blue Planet II. The series brings never seen before clips of fishes being smarter than we assumed them to be.
Orange-dotted tuskfish in the Great Barrier Reef, Australia are one of the few coral reef fish that use coral outcroppings as a tool. By forcefully smashing the clam on either side of the outcropping, the tuskfish is able to break apart its tough protective shell. After admiring the patience of this fish, when Attenborough’s voice says, “So, here’s a fish … that uses tools,” you can’t help but feel joy.
In another scene, near Seychelles Islands in the Indian Ocean, giant trevally fish prey on sooty tern birds that train their hatchlings in the lagoons before setting them free over the blue water.
The scene is opposite of what we generally understand how hunting works. It’s the birds like seagulls who take the fish out of the water. But trevally fish, that weighs 40kg and can open their mouth as wide as the size of a standard football, actually calculate the trajectory of the birds hovering above the water and take a leap of more than one meter in the air to catch their prey!
Let that sink in.
Slow motion scenes, riveting music by David Fleming, Jacob Shea, and Hans Zimmer, and the prey nearly missing the jaws of trevally fish is enough to set your heart racing. Blue Planet II is filled with such mind-blowing scenes and non-fictional stories. One such story is of sixgill sharks that feed on the carcass of a sperm whale. These sharks can live on this frugal diet for a year. These sharks actually attacked the BBC filming crew assuming they were a threat. When they were done eating the carcass, scavengers like crabs, zombie worms finished the leftovers thus completing the recycling of the whale.
Blue Planet II can be your educational documentary served at a gourmet restaurant. It can be your cinematography aspiration. It can be your expedition inspiration. It is definitely one of the best pieces of television made ever.