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Earth: One Amazing Day
It's entirely fitting that Richard Dale, Peter Webber and Fan Lixin's nature documentary should be a visually sumptuous exercise in recycling. The six hour-long episodes of the BBC series Planet Earth II, which was broadcast in winter 2016, have been re-edited with previously unseen footage into a feature-length celebration of our "small blue planet with a rocky moon travelling around a star". The soothing narration of Sir David Attenborough has been replaced by the silky tones of Robert Redford, working from a script penned by Frank Cottrell Boyce (Goodbye Christopher Robin) which is heavy on the hyperbole. "As far as we know, one day spent here is the most amazing thing in the universe," coos Redford as almost 40 photographers capture startling images of the most remote locations on the globe. It's a ravishing spectacle but some sequences will be achingly familiar to viewers of the TV show, most notably dramatic footage from the Galapagos Islands of a young marine iguana emerging from hot sand and attempting to outrun dozens of deadly racer snakes. It's a remarkable and unbearably tense segment, even on a second viewing, captured in ultra-high-definition and complemented by composer Alex Heffes' pulse-quickening score. Earth: One Amazing Day choreographs each vignette within a single 24-hour period, from sunrise to sunset when "creatures of darkness" come out to play. In the early morning, we are treated to shots of rays leaping majestically out of the water and a serval cat high-jumping in the African savannah in the vain hope of catching a tasty vlei rat. As midday approaches, a baby giant panda frolics in its jungle habitat and has bamboo shoots wrenched from its paws by a ravenous mother, and a herd of zebra struggles to cross a fast-moving river full of snapping crocodiles and hippopotamuses. Jazzy elevator music accompanies delightful scenes of grizzly bears in North America rubbing enthusiastically against trees to shed some of their winter fur. Beneath the waves, majestic sperm whales, which are "capable of sounds far louder than a jet engine", hang vertically as they take a nap. Meanwhile, on a Caribbean island off the coast of Panama, one pygmy three-toed sloth snores contentedly until he is roused by the enticing calls of a female. As day spins towards night, more than one million chinstrap penguins on the sub-Antarctic island of Zavodovski embark on a daily exodus out to sea to catch food for hungry chicks. They return to their mates with bulging stomachs. "Sometimes it can be difficult to remember where you parked your kids," quips Redford as one male is momentarily disoriented. The third rock from the sun is truly a place of wonder.