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HOW THE EARTH WAS MADE
Blu-ray Edition

Review by Michael Jacobson

Narrator:  Edward Herrmann
Director:  Peter Chin
Audio:  LPCM Stereo
Video:  Anamorphic Widescreen 1.78:1
Studio:  New Video
Features:  Documentary, Additional Scenes
Length:  94 Minutes
Release Date:  August 25, 2009

Film ***1/2

I never cared much for geology in school.  Sand and rocks, rocks and sand, occasional volcano, more rocks, more sand…guess you could say I wasn’t a very “sedimental” guy.  (Sorry, I could NOT resist).

But the History Channel’s remarkable series How the Earth Was Made is a different kind of geology lesson.  This Blu-ray presentation offers the original 90 minute premiere episode, and gives viewers a startling and graphic depiction of the history of our planet, through times both turbulent and calm.

It encompasses geological studies that have attempted to trace back the world we know through over four and a half billion years, starting from when the planet would have been completely recognizable to modern humans.  Using a graphic timeline onscreen and plenty of superb CGI renderings, we can see how our world looked at various stages of history, starting from a molten ball and ending with the temperate and prosperous Earth of today.

In between, a lot happened.  The first appearances of solid land, the rains brought about by volcanic gasses that covered almost everything, the continental drifts (which I never fully understood before, but do now…thanks, guys!), to the first appearances of life, to events of cataclysmic extinction, to the first major ice age, and more…all of these events shaped our world, both literally and figuratively, and before the planet became the terra firma we all call home, it had to go through a lot of growth…some of it quite devastating and painful.

I also applaud the fact that, at least for this episode, the scientists were mercifully dismissive of the idea of man-made global warming.  I mean, you can’t watch the history of Earth and all that happened to it and then possibly consider that humans could have even a fraction of the influence over global shaping events as did the natural course.  Most geologist, the program notes, believe we are in a period between two major ice ages, and whatever we do, if anything, to increase the temperature of the Earth, will not prevent another one from coming.

Thankfully, that’s a few million years from now, but one can’t dismiss the notion that periods of cooling have been more detrimental to the development of life on Earth than have warm periods.  When the dinosaurs ruled, for example, it was one of the warmest periods in geological history.  Yet it was also one of the most expansive as far as the amount of life on the surface.  But those giant asteroids hitting the planet?  That will ruin your day every time.

It was endlessly fascinating for me, someone who only learned enough geology to pass a test, to really view the way our planet has been shaped, formed, wiped clean and brought back over billions of years.  The graphical depictions of the Earth in her various stages of life really made the science come alive, and gave me new appreciation for just how extraordinary it is that the world we know as we know it could exist at all.  You’d think some great intellect had to be behind it all.

It can’t fill every gap…how life began is something that will probably never be proven scientifically, but at least with this terrific program, we can follow the progress of life and humanity from humble origins to the technological marvels we know today.  After all, humans have really only become a viable life force within the last 10,000 years or so…barely a percentage of the entire breadth of the history of the world.

In other words, this is a program for both the scientifically minded and the more casual observer.  The visual images combined with testimony from modern and early scientists paint a clear picture of a planet that has been through much and will continue to go through more.  Geology helps shape the path of life, and even if life is no more, there will still be Earth.  We may not recognize it anymore, but at least the guiding hand of the Universe has given us much to appreciate for the time being.

Video ***

This program consists of filmed footage, historical archives, and CGI rendering, so naturally, even in high definition, there are going to be some natural limitations.  However, this Blu-ray release brings all media together in a highly satisfying visual presentation, rich with detail and imaginatively crafted, so that even if we’re looking at computerized renderings, the contrast and clarity is striking.

Audio **1/2

The uncompressed stereo track offers a fair amount of dynamic range…let’s face, some events in Earth’s history were quite loud…and the effects balance nicely against the narration and interview clips for a solid and clean presentation.

Features **

This disc includes five bonus scenes and the documentary “Inside the Volcano”.

Summary:

Man may someday endure the fate of the dinosaurs, and we can’t do much to prevent it if it happens.  But How the Earth Was Made offers plenty of guidance to show us how we got where we are, and a good indication of where we might end up, for those of us who happen to still be around in a couple of billion years.

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