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Life on Fire: Wildlife on the Volcano's Edge(TV) (2013)
LIFE ON FIRE offers a close-up look at volcanoes and the effects on the environment around them. From the depths of the abyss to the high-altitude snow-capped peaks, the series paints a detailed picture of the struggles and amazing adaptation required to survive around volcanoes.
For more about Life on Fire: Wildlife on the Volcano's Edge and the Life on Fire: Wildlife on the Volcano's Edge Blu-ray release, see Life on Fire: Wildlife on the Volcano's Edge Blu-ray Review published by Brian Orndorf on March 28, 2013 where this Blu-ray release scored 3.5 out of 5.
Life on Fire: Wildlife on the Volcano's Edge Blu-ray Review
Living next door to doom.
Reviewed by Brian Orndorf, March 28, 2013
Volcanoes are mysterious, terrifying, and quite beautiful from a safe distance. Their secrets are nearly impossible to discover, buried deep in the Earth under layers of lava and furious gases, requiring a fine touch of science to extract samples for study, and even those efforts aren't nearly enough to understand the fury that powers these fire-belching titans. Endeavoring to paint a larger portrait of volcanic activity, director Bertrand Loyer has assembled "Life on Fire: Wildlife on the Volcano's Edge," a six-part series that inspects the balance of nature that sprouts up around these danger zones, heading around the world on a mission to understand instinct, survival, and risk with an epic cinematic sweep that provides atypical access to creatures conducting daily business in the shadow of certain doom.
In a smart creative move, Loyer has brought in Jeremy Irons to narrate, and the actor's famed golden throat supplies a secure guide to the series. Growling and cooing his way around descriptions of volcanoes and nature in motion, Irons manages to support Loyer's occasional tangents into excessive documentation, finding the director getting lost in the beauty of movement and design, stopping the show to inspect behaviors in tremendous detail. Irons also navigates a difficult range of pronunciations, coming out a champion as he's tasked with repeating "Eyjafjallajokull" over and over. When detailing the enormity of threat and the serenity of unexpected volcanic stability, Irons is the man for the job, keeping "Life on Fire" engaging.
"Icelandic Volcanoes: Who is Next?" (55:05)
Iceland contains a vast landscape of volcanoes, which have helped to geographically shape the country that we see today. However, these volcanoes are overdue for activity, with the 2010 eruption of Eyjafjallajokull providing a brutal remainder of the land's volatility and propensity for global disruption, with Europe brought to a standstill by a fallout of ash, resulting in billions of dollars in lost revenue. Four volcanoes are being eyed closely: Hekla, Askja, Grimsvotn, and Katla, the latter a particular concern for volcanologists and local farmers, who would see the area crippled by ash and monumental glacier melt if eruption were to occur. Attempting to predict explosions by researching the innards of the Earth, scientists hope to stave off catastrophe, resulting in minimal impact for these behemoths of fire and ice.
"Volcano Doctors" (54:44)
As the world population rises, the demand for early detection when it comes to volcano eruptions has increased in importance, not to only to save lives but to preserve the air systems we rely on for travel and business. In places such as Columbia, Hawaii, Italy, and the Philippines, volcanologists work tirelessly to perfect study of airflow and magma, hoping to acquire a greater understanding of habits and pressure to best forecast explosive release. It's far from a perfect science, often competing with religious considerations, yet improvements and refinements arrive with regularity, along with equipment of growing precision. Also covered are questions of ash clouds and their destructive properties, causing direct damage to airplanes.
"The Surprise Salmon" (54:45)
Up in Alaska near the Ring of Fire, the Sockeye Salmon return to local waters for their routine of survival and spawning. Navigating treacherous rivers, the salmon work tirelessly to head upstream, faced with an onslaught of hungry Grizzly Bears and the varying quality of water, poisoned via activity of nearby volcanoes. One such area, Aniakchak, is home to a special breed of salmon that make a life in Surprise Lake -- a volatile body of water with only a few pockets of freshwater peace. Against all odds, the fish manage to secure a spot for the next generation, spawning carefully in the middle of chaos and death.
"Phoenix Temple" (54:28)
Deep inside Nicaragua lies the Masaya Volcano, an active but dormant location that spews gas daily, preparing to erupt after 200 years of slumber. During this time, life has sprung up around the volcano, assuming control of the land, making the tumultuous elements home. We meet bats and birds (parakeets create a green ripple of flight along the gray landscape), and study flora, watching how nature makes due with whatever open space remains available. There's also a human element, with a town situated near the volcano, tempting fate as daily business is conducted, filling out an ecosystem that could be wiped out at any moment.
"Ash Runners" (54:41)
While Papua New Guinea is largely considered paradise, the area contains the "Hornet's Nest," a ring of volcanoes that pump ash into the sky, eventually coating the landscape with a gray powder that makes endurance impossible for certain animals. Following the adventures of birds, crabs, and lizards, we observe a select few that have made a life in desolation, hunting and surviving while active volcanoes explode in the background, turning a colorful world into a treacherous, monochromatic test of instinct.
"Pioneers of the Deep" (54:18)
In the Tongan archipelago, volcanoes erupt underneath the South Pacific waters, deep down the black abyss where creatures great and small benefit from the violent commotion, feeding on bacteria. We see the trials and tribulations of shrimp, who make their way below the water, and birds, who survive above, surveying islands of solidified lava for signs of life. It's this great hunt for food and companionship that's dependent on the presence of volcanoes, with unpredictable activity a common concern.
Life on Fire: Wildlife on the Volcano's Edge Blu-ray, Video Quality
The AVC encoded image (1.78:1 aspect ratio) presentation is consistent with other PBS-inspired programming, maintaining a crisp view of interviewees from around the world, permitting study of physical wear and tear at the ends of the Earth. Volcanic activity is also agreeably textured, while pushing shades of red to assured heights as lava flow makes a marvelous impression in HD. Greenery is also preserved with rich hues, while skintones sustain their human qualities. Some banding and mild pixelation is detected. Shadow detail is satisfactory, keeping distances open for survey and the particulars of lava crust and rock formations easily studied.
Life on Fire: Wildlife on the Volcano's Edge Blu-ray, Audio Quality
The 5.1 DTS-HD MA sound mix is missing a consistency in terms of Irons's narration. While the first episode of the series sounds full and crisp with a center grip, the other episodes detail a slightly denser response with the master thespian's voice, failing to lock down the same authoritative position. It doesn't wreck the listening experience, but it's a noticeable change in quality. Atmospherics are quite healthy, with some directional activity and a comfortable surround presence to provide immersion (a cave bat sequence in "Phoenix Temple" will undoubtedly trigger the heebie-jeebies in those with a fear of the winged creatures). Low-end for volcanic explosions and naturalistic chaos is eager and rumbly. Scoring is pushed down in the mix, yet retains its supportive qualities despite a thin presentation.
Life on Fire: Wildlife on the Volcano's Edge Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Life on Fire: Wildlife on the Volcano's Edge Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
True to its title, "Life on Fire" doesn't dissect volcanic workings to an exhaustive degree, preferring to remain on the edge and study those directly involved with such volatility. It's educational but also indulgent, occasionally testing patience when Loyer becomes caught up in his coverage. Still, the essentials of routine and survival are vividly captured for the viewer to inspect, helping to appreciate the tenuous connection between volcanoes and the elements of nature that dare to flourish in the line of fire.
Life on Fire: Wildlife on the Volcano's Edge Blu-ray, News and Updates
• Three PBS Documentary Blu-rays - March 12, 2013
PBS has announced the Blu-ray release of three nature documentaries due early in the Spring: Life on Fire: Wildlife on the Volcano's Edge on March 26th, Nature: Cold Warriors - Wolves and Buffalo on April 2nd, and Nova: Earth from Space on April 30th.
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