Darr: ‘Our Planet’ weaponizes natural beauty against natural destruction


“Our Planet” courtesy photo

On the most beautiful days, we step outside and are taken aback by the world. The flowering trees and blue skies renew themselves somehow, and the grasses we’ve seen so many times before glow as if they burst forth yesterday.

There’s nothing quite like this natural ecstasy. Miraculously, the “Planet” nature documentary series manages to capture this ecstasy over and over again.

The newest entry in the series, the eight-episode “Our Planet,” has the core hallmarks of the shows that came before — breathtaking shots of wild animals in action and exquisite narration by David Attenborough. Yet, “Our Planet” manages to take the breathtaking photography of previous seasons and ratchet it up even further.

We witness dolphins chase mackerel into the range of diving birds, creating a pincer-like feeding frenzy taking place from both air and sea. We watch a wildebeest mother successfully defend her young from hunting dogs through flanking maneuvers in a high-speed chase. The show bears an overabundance of these shots that are sure to make viewers gasp.

While these wow-moments are nothing new to the “Planet” series, “Our Planet” tends to load them with a new sense of urgency. As implied by its title, “Our Planet” aims to make its viewers take ownership of the human destruction of these animals’ environment.

Mostly gone is the humor that punctuated “Planet Earth.” In its place are alternating shots of animals frolicking and then struggling through human-changed landscapes. Like previous Attenborough-narrated documentaries, “Our Planet” still revels in the wonders of the world. It simply refuses to let the viewer forget that those wonders are disappearing every year.

Thankfully, “Our Planet” has a few tricks up its sleeve that makes its doomsday approach worth navigating. The series continues to push its storytelling beyond prey-predator interactions, allowing each episode to feel fresh despite tackling similar topics.

The show’s peaceful scenes are treated to more delightful music than ever before in order to contrast with the darker scenes that surround them. With these elements, “Our Planet” brings a freshness not only in its tone but in its style.

With “Planet” running now for nearly two decades, it’s quite shocking how each new series manages to make something new of a few excellent ingredients. “Our Planet” bears a refreshing urgency in its approach that separates it from an increasingly crowded pack. It’s a delight to behold. Hopefully, its viewers will finish the nature documentary with a drive to save what they’ve seen.