May 23, 2022

Dinosaurs Truly Come to Life in New Docuseries “Prehistoric Planet” (Review)

There is something enticing about being given a window into a world we will never experience. Sometimes it can feel private, even perverse…but not when it comes to the dinosaurs.

Image courtesy of Apple TV+

Over fifty million years ago, these prehistoric creatures, both large and small, roamed the earth alongside the animals we coexist with today. Our knowledge of the dinosaurs has only continued to increase over the last centuries, and with technology advancing right alongside it, we’re now able to digitally render the gorgeous environments that dinosaurs resided in for an even better understanding of how they lived.

With a five-episode event spread out throughout this week, Apple TV+ presents Prehistoric Planet, a stunningly gorgeous photorealistic look at the lives of dinosaurs in five different biospheres. Presented and narrated by David Attenborough — a comforting presence for those familiar with his countless nature documentaries, and likely familiar even to those who aren’t — the series is thorough, told in vignettes that give us an idea as to the day-to-day lives, in addition to the overall life cycles, of the beasts that roamed the earth long before humanity.

Unsurprisingly, it mostly covers the basic functions and executions of each species’ habits, but what makes it engaging is that every dinosaur is different — not just in appearance, but in the way they spend their time, hunt for food, and adapt to survive in their chosen environments. Most of what we see are their mating rituals and caring for their young, but those are two things very central to the life cycle of a dinosaur, and so they get an appropriate amount of screen time in a generally comprehensive series. There’s no way, in five 40-minute episodes, that every species’ entire life can be chronicled, but the series covers all the ground it possibly can. And the best part about it all: it’s educational, with its science backed up, as David Attenborough says at the end of every episode, on its show page!

Image courtesy of Apple TV+

Such an epic scope is accompanied by an equally majestic score, and legendary composer Hans Zimmer delivers, in collaboration with Kara Talve (The Simpsons) and Anže Rozman (Seven Worlds, One Planet). Each piece of music is individual and singular, and perfectly fits the feeling and emotion of the vignette that it’s attached to. At points, it feels like it’s actively trying to avoid any notes from the Jurassic Park theme, but it’s completely understandable — that’s a motif that has stood the test of time, and similarities are to be expected.

Prehistoric Planet is a nature documentary, but it’s also so much more. It’s an exposé of sorts, though there’s no scandal to be found; instead, it’s an easy and appealing way of educating ourselves about the quirky and unique wonders of planet Earth, as ruled by the dinosaurs. It’s hard to believe you’re watching a completely computer-generated world, to the extent that every death is impactful. In that sense, the score, visuals and narration work hand-in-hand, but like the best documentaries, it’s excellent at evoking emotion at places where you thought it might be impossible. Who would’ve thought I’d be invested in the flight journey of a juvenile Alcione, or disappointed when a giddy Carnotaurus is rejected after a mating display?

Image courtesy of Apple TV+

Imagine you’re in an elevator with another person. For one reason or another, you ask them what they’ve been watching lately. They turn to you, excited, and say “Prehistoric Planet. It’s a show on Apple TV+ with a fully CG-rendered visual representation of the dinosaur world, narrated by the soothing voice of David Attenborough, and accompanied by a riveting Hans Zimmer score.” Even simplified, it already sounds like one of the best paleo-documentaries ever made. Need I say more?

The first episode of Prehistoric Planet is available on Apple TV+, with new episodes premiering every day this week.

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