Walking with Prehistoric Beasts
Using the latest digital technology, the era between the dinosaurs and man is superbly recreated by the BBC and Discovery Channel in another winning production from the coalition.Using the latest digital technology, the era between the dinosaurs and man is superbly recreated by the BBC and Discovery Channel in another winning production from the coalition.Using the latest digital technology, the era between the dinosaurs and man is superbly recreated by the BBC and Discovery Channel in another winning production from the coalition.
The most pivotal function of an edutainment documentary (such as this being an "educationally entertaining" programme centred on extinct animals) above all else is to properly enlighten the clueless viewer with its vast wealth of informative knowledge and trivial facts on the specific topic through the fine artistry of compelling storytelling and utilisation of cutting-edge special effects (well, at least for the time when it was first broadcast, that is). I feel as if the filmmaking duo, Tim Haines and Jasper James (who were like the groundbreaking pioneers of their time, back in the day), took everything they learnt while making the first instalment in their series on prehistoric life (that of course being the smash hit Walking With Dinosaurs) and really perfected their craft when it came to producing Walking With Beasts, as this second entry improved on all those little flaws that were present in the original miniseries. And in regards to the individual stories being told, every episode's plot was fantastic.
Back when I watched Walking With Beasts for the very first time (I'm talking years ago), my disbelief was totally suspended as I quickly found myself captivated by its strange world of bizarre, yet familiar, ancient animals (yep, my suspension of disbelief really kicked in on my original viewing of this intriguing documentary). Unfortunately for me, I didn't get the chance to see this masterful miniseries when it was initially broadcast on telly in late 2001, as I probably would've been a bit too young at the time to be interested in its subject matter or even care about what's going on in the episodes (I wouldn't have been able to fully appreciate it for what it was at that early point in my life). But luckily though, I happened to stumble upon the DVD for it when I took a trip to the London Museum of Natural History (in the gift shop section, of course) as an older kid.
It helped bring the wonderful world of Mega Beasts into the public consciousness and made people more aware of our mysterious planet's forgotten history, when it comes down to learning about what happened in the aftermath the dinosaurs' brutal demise (observing how mammals diversified to reign supreme) I mean, sure. Most people are already familiar with the really famous Ice Age megafauna, such as woolly mammoths and sabre-toothed cats. But what about terror birds and giant ground sloths? How about the world's largest land mammal (the biggest to have ever walked on the face of the Earth)? Or even our ancient "ape-man" ancestors (the earliest known upright-walking primates)? So with that in mind, this documentary (which has Kenneth Branagh's spellbinding narration) brought these obscure creatures to everyone's attention and made them recognisable in the mainstream pop culture.
Ben Bartlett truly outdid himself here, as this masterclass of a soundtrack is nothing short of amazing. His whole musical score throughout the entire Walking With... series is really good, but I think the one he composed for this might honestly be his magnum opus (yep, it's the greatest accomplishment he's ever achieved). The more affective tracks heard in episodes 4 and 6 brought about a raw sensation of overwhelming awe whenever the background music started to gently swell, followed by the growing sounds of a human choir's eerie singing and tribal chanting (it's such a sensational piece of grandiose score). Even the action-packed, opening theme always used to get me super excited before watching the actual episodes (such a catchy tune, especially with all those primitive grunting, growling and roaring noises that the various animals let out). It's the all-time best theme music to be put in the opening of a TV show, in my opinion (still sends chills down my spine!).
Some of the facts and statements in this documentary are obviously outdated now but back when its production went underway, the creators sure did their reaserch thoroughly when consulting with the top experts on how their behind-the-scenes crew should depict these lesser-known prehistoric animals. So what if it isn't exactly considered to be entirely accurate anymore, anyway? New scientific discoveries based on the latest evidence of fossil findings are practically being made every single day and what's more, our very perception and understanding of extinct animals will constantly be changing in the many long years to come, thus making the previous assertions we once had obsolete (that's just how the world of palaeontology works). So with that in mind, nature documentaries about pre-historical times will NEVER EVER be 100% palaeonotlogically accurate. So to those people who always keep going on and on about how the animals aren't portrayed as being fully accurate, all I have to say is... "So What? Get Over It!"
To sum things us; underneath all the spectacle of its flashy effects, Walking With Beasts succeeds at being a thoroughly remarkable programme on the subject of natural history and, to put it frankly (with all due respect), I actually prefer this to Walking With Dinosaurs because I personally find it a bit more fascinating (being taught about things I never knew existed before). It's honestly one of my all-time favourites! In truth, the only real complaint I have is the objective fact that some of the CGI on the more fur-covered creatures obviously doesn't hold up as well by today's standards for the high quality of visual effects seen on TV shows (it's very noticeable in certain areas). But given the proper context as to the time in which it was made (back when CGI wasn't as prevalent in TV productions), I think it's excusable and just a petty nitpick. I simply can't praise it enough and on that note, I highly recommend it.
- Nov 16, 2020