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Soundtrack review: Blue planet II (Hans Zimmer, Jacob Shea and David Fleming – 2017)

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Soundtrack review: Blue planet II (Hans Zimmer, Jacob Shea and David Fleming – 2017)

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“Blue Planet II” is a 2017 British nature documentary series produced by the BBC Natural History Unit. Like its predecessor, The Blue Planet (2001), it is narrated and presented by naturalist Sir David Attenborough. The series was announced by the BBC in 2013 with the working title Oceans, but the title was later changed to Blue Planet II on 19 February 2017. Filming took place over a course of more than four years; involving 125 expeditions across 39 countries and produced more than 6,000 hours of underwater dive footage from over an estimated 4000 dives. Hans Zimmer and his collaborators returned to score after also doing “Planet Earth II” last year. I don’t see Jasha Klebe’s name anymore and it’s a pity. It is also a pity that the track Hans recorded with Radiohead, “Bloom”, is not present on the album either.

It’s not often that I go into a score knowing it will be great; but the ocean theme, the way the underwater has inspired composers for years without fail and the great work Hans and the team did for “Planet Earth” make me giddy with anticipation. There’s also the nostalgia part as I grew up on BBC nature documentaries, this was the way I learned to speak the language. It doesn’t take more than a few seconds from the majestic opening cue “The blue planet” to give me a sense of being very small in front of such a beautiful vastness. The orchestral buildup gives me goosebumps and this epic theme with the delightfully mysterious choral parts and the Zimmer percussion sound could stand proudly on any drama or fantasy score. This is “Lord of the rings” like epic beauty and I am floored, hypnotised, speechless. And the comes the emotional part with the cello that graces “Family theme” and buries this score even deeper inside me. The water elements are also present in the sound and when the fairy tale vocal parts come again that echo stories or mermaids and fascinating glowing creatures I get a strong desire to also see the documentary as soon as I can.

The journey of listening to “Blue planet II” really is something to be experienced and enjoyed rather than talked about; the music is a celebration of beauty with broad melodic motifs and epic moments that I am sure play over the most spectacular images that might involve creatures chasing each other. There are delightful playful moments like “Turtle spa” that the composers infuse with harp sounds. At the under end of the spectrum there’s a dark and menacing cue like “Humboldt squid” that plays the dangers of the ocean. The soundscape of “Blue planet II” is as varied as underwater life while in the same time keeping a constant mysterious melodic vibe to remind the listeners of the setting of the story.

“Blue planet II” is a rich and beautiful atmospheric score that is as enjoyable as a standalone listen as the documentary is to watch. I hope Hans and the team come back for more of these projects.

Cue rating: 92 / 100

Total minutes of excellence: 41 / 71

Album excellence: 57%

Highlights:
The Blue Planet
Family Theme
Surfing Dolphins
Mobula Rays
Race to Feed
Albatross Flight
Ducks and Currents
Scavengers of the Deep
Baby Turtle
Portuguese Man of War
Walrus: The Right Piece of Ice

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Mihnea Manduteanu

I have been listening to film music for 25 years and writing about it since 2014. I've written over 1000 reviews and I can't imagine myself doing anything else. I am also a member of IFMCA (International Film Music Critics Association).

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