Spectacular photography has been a hallmark of Discovery’s collaborations with the BBC, from “Planet Earth” to this three-night, six-hour documentary. Despite the title, though, “Nature’s Most Amazing Events” is less of an event than its high-rated predecessor — a visually splendid compilation of footage that doesn’t quite match its hyperbolic title. Discovery still has a winner on its hands, but the highlights seem fewer and farther between — or maybe just our amazement quotient has been slightly numbed by the welcome new wave of high-def nature films.
Divided into six rather arbitrary chapters, “Amazing Events” begins with “Arctic Summer” — chronicling the long, cruel winter months before the summer thaw arrives, as polar bears, arctic foxes and oddities like the horned narwhal whale adapt to survive; and “Grizzly Wilderness,” as grizzlies and wolves feast on the annual return of Pacific salmon.
Subsequent chapters — perhaps the best being “Army of Predators,” where sharks, dolphins, whales and birds prey on the massive sardine run up South Africa’s coast, a feeding frenzy that resembles a “Star Wars” space battle — range far and wide in search of “Wow” moments, coupled with gee-whiz statistics.
All the requisite devices are put to good use, including aerial photography that brings the massive scope of these events into sharp focus, time-lapse imagery, and slow-motion to capture every bared fang. Male hippos fight over harems and dragonflies mate in a bizarrely colorful spectacle.
Even nature documentaries can’t escape politics, and it should be noted that there are several references to climate change endangering species such as polar bears, so global-warming deniers perhaps need not apply. A warning, too, that those with a weak stomach or special fondness for seals might not want to see what they look like when a hungry polar bear gets hold of one.
All told, there are some wonderful elements spread among this documentary’s tableau of life, but also a degree of repetition and been-there, seen-that — the copious list of “television firsts” that the cameras recorded notwithstanding. The weakest hour, for example, “Kalahari Flood,” explores the dry season in the Kalahari Desert, but the wait for water to flood the Okavango Delta finally feels a bit too Disney-fied in the course of this “circle of life”-style journey.
Is “Nature’s Most Amazing Events” the most amazing documentary you’ve seen? Probably not. But for those with an interest in the other beasts occupying planet Earth, it’s just amazing enough.