Over the years, I have seen some truly amazing nature documentaries showcasing the beauty of this world. There are filmmakers out there who are showing us what lies in the deepest depths of the ocean, and the creatures found in the most remote, uninhabitable jungles. They make us witness to those places we could otherwise never go. And yet Yellowstone: Battle for Life is able to take its place among the best of these documentaries by showing us the wonders of Yellowstone, a national park completely accessible to everyone.
In March of 2009, the BBC released this three episode series which shows us in extraordinarily vivid detail the cycle of seasons that takes place in Yellowstone. The first episode is Winter, followed by Summer, and then Autumn. By the end of this last episode, everything comes full circle as winter approaches yet again, turning the clock back and “covering up all traces of the human world.” All three episodes are beautifully shot and a testament to what Blu-Ray is really capable of. Every image pops with detail and transports the viewer into this magnificent world.
Yellowstone is essentially a giant bowl, covering over 2 million acres, and home to more than 2/3 of the world’s geysers. Fully exploring the natural phenomenon that is this “volcanic wonderland” while also exploring the vast array of wildlife within would seem a daunting task. I’ll admit, I wasn’t too excited as I put the disc in for the first time, but I found myself completely wrapped up in the sheer amount of material the filmmakers were able to capture.
As the seasons progress, we follow several different groups of wildlife in their efforts to survive. The episode detailing the winter focuses primarily on the wolves, while the segment on the summer really captures what it is to be a bear in this environment. The final chapter focuses on Yellowstone itself, and the natural wonders found within.
All three episodes are narrated by Peter Firth, a well-known British actor. He does a fantastic job of presenting the material in a way that doesn’t overwhelm but gives a level of importance to what we are seeing. Accompanying his fantastic narration is an equally impressive score from British composer Edmund Butt. His sweeping orchestrations enhance every moment onscreen.
My one complaint with this release is with the extras. There are only three segments, and none of them give any insight into the technical wizardry that helped the filmmakers capture these images. Instead, two of the segments focus on individuals and the third focuses on a group. The first feature is a look at a man named Jeff Henry (aka The Snowman). As his nickname implies, he is obsessed with the winter, and he helped them get some of the amazing footage for that episode. I can appreciate that they want to show us the people who assisted them, but there is nothing informative or interesting in this segment. The second feature shows us the “Geyser Gazers,” a large group of people who spend their lives trying to find the patterns in geyser eruptions. Finally, the last segment focuses on Mike Kasic (aka The Fishman). He is the sound recordist for this documentary, but the entire feature is about his obsession with swimming in the rivers of Yellowstone. These all seem like wasted opportunities, taking space that could have been utilized with insights into the production process.
Getting the amazing footage they were able to capture can’t be easy. Obviously, a lot of work went into putting this together, and I would have loved to see some of that side of the shoot. But despite the lack of decent extras, this is a great series and absolutely worth owning. I never realized how extraordinary Yellowstone really is, and I’m sure that I will be revisiting this series many more times to come.