Reptiles And Amphibians (Rupert Barrington, 2009): UK

Review by Jason Patton at The Santa Barbara International Film Festival.

When BBC and Discovery Channel brought us Planet Earth, it appeared we had seen one of the best nature documentaries in a long time. Now comes the next installment in the series, Life, a closer looks at different species and their varying survival skills and lifestyle.

The Santa Barbara International Film Festival showed the Reptiles and Amphibians section of the highly anticipated new series and needless to say, we’re in for another thrill ride in the world of stunning and beautiful nature.

Reptiles and Amphibians begins with a look at the komodo dragon, arguably the most dominant creature of its species. We see two grown males fight viciously and we get the idea that occasionally a little competition keeps these predators as deadly as they have become. And that becomes no more evident as Reptiles and Amphibians brings its feature full circle with a final act of dominance from these enormous dragons: they slowly wear down a water buffalo with bites to the leg until eventually it becomes a large enough feast for an entire pack.

But Reptiles and Amphibians isn’t all gruesome and brutal. We watch a chameleon use perfect aim with its tongue to snatch a preying mantis from a leaf and simultaneously dodge predators by changing its color. We see the aptly named “Jesus lizard” run across water, a feat that could be accomplished by a human only at speeds faster than what the 101 will allow.

Reptiles and Amphibians is truly a fascinating look into what makes nature so beautiful and yet so mysterious. Pairing extraordinary camera work with clever voiceover work from David Attenborough and ironic musical companionship, Life’s Reptiles and Amphibians keeps you not just entertained, but begging for more.

Planet Earth introduced us to a very unique and very intriguing new filming style slowing images to one-fiftieth of its actual speed. Reptiles and Amphibians employs the same technique as we observe rain drops falling at unreal speeds, crashing down on a bug the size of your fingernail. Strong enough to drown this bug in a single drop, the bug is impervious to the rain because of its skin and it repels the water in slow-motion as if we are watching art unfold before our eyes.

And frankly, we are. Reptiles and Amphibians is aesthetically brilliant from start to finish. From the moment we see a garter snake change its body temperature to trick other male snakes into believing it can mate with a female, to a beetle rolling itself into an indestructible ball to escape a threatening tarantula, the nature we get to follow is magnificent.

Life premieres on the Discovery Channel on March 21st and believe anyone who was grateful enough to see Reptiles and Amphibians in advance that every minute is worth it.

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