In a breathtaking and eye-catching format, Life on Our Planet, a new Netflix documentary series produced by Steven Spielberg, intends to retrace the complete history of the presence of life on Earth. Broadcast worldwide since October 25 on the streaming platform, the documentary, in eight episodes, offers viewers a dive into the five previous mass extinctions, recreated with powerful special effects. The narration, carried by actor Morgan Freeman, reminds us that life has always found a way to overcome catastrophes for more than 4 billion years, from harsh ice ages to meteorite falls. Each time, species that managed to escape destruction waged a fierce battle, Games of Thrones style, to ensure domination of the new era. “What we wanted to do, our intention at the very beginning, was to adapt the life story into a serial. To make it a production that we want to watch in one sitting. Because this story is so dramatic,” says writer and producer Dan Tapster. Before clarifying: “I think and I hope that this is something that we have achieved, which is probably a first in natural history.”
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In Life on Our Planet, the tension and suspense reside in the surprise “victory” of species over others, at least for a few hundred thousand years. The influence of Spielberg's studios, Amblin Television, added "much more emotion" and "pathos" to this historic documentary, according to Dan Tapster. The documentary features key species, such as the first fish with a backbone or the first vertebrate to migrate from the ocean to the land. With 99% of the species that lived on Earth now extinct, the directors had the freedom of choice. “There are about a billion species, at least, that are no longer with us, and we had to narrow it down to 65,” explains the author-producer. The stories presented are often those of unlikely heroes, of courageous surviving species, like that of the strange-looking Arandaspis fish. This extinct fish "is a little rotten, it's weird... but it's there (in the documentary) because it plays a crucial role" in evolution, explains Jonathan Privett, in charge of special effects.
The series is full of special effects designed by the Industrial Light company