Madagascar (Blu-ray Review)

The BBC has produced another nature program, and if it’s anything like its predecessors, it should be good.  However, let me start off straight away by saying this is not the animated movie of the same title. This Madagascar is as real as it gets, and coming from the BBC, offers yet another high quality presentation of nature in all its glory, as this time, we head to the east coast of Africa in the Indian Ocean where a certain island resides, called Madagascar.


Fully titled Madagascar: The Land Where Evolution Ran Wild, BBC cameras guide viewers through the varied landscapes where it’s differing scenery is only outdone by the extremely wide-ranging fauna.  It is indeed a Galapagos of its own accord; a place where nature has allowed these creatures to form and evolve into successful species over the last 60 million years.  This Blu-ray  features all this on two discs; the first containing two 1-hour segments (Island of Marvels & Lost Worlds), the second disc containing one 1-hour feature (Land of Heat & Dust) as well as a Special Features section.

Arguably the mascot of the island is the lemur, of which two grace the box cover and of which 80 species exist.  While lemurs may seem plentiful in description, their name, meaning ‘spirit’ or ‘ghost’, is in some cases too close to achieving nothing more than just that…a ghost.  Human encroachment, as always, is serving as not only peril for the lemurs, but for the countless other species as well.  While this documentary doesn’t cover all 80 species, there are a few key species that are captured on film and masterfully described by David Attenborough (BBC’s earth and life).

In addition, there are other astounding critters that call Madagascar home.  One such animal is a giant mongoose known as a fossa; the largest predator on the island.  Though mostly nocturnal and highly rare, you will find some incredibly impressive footage of them here.  Another popular inhabitant are chameleons.  There are those which are barely bigger than a large ant, then there are those which can grow to the size of a small dog.  Their vibrant colors, cautious movements and intriguing behaviors are all magnificently shown here.  There are even sections of the documentary covering the birds of paradise and unusual insects on the disc, all of which are just as educational and amazing to watch as the next.

All in all, Madagascar: The Land Where Evolution Ran Wild provides a VERY informative look at the mountainous, arid and rainforest terrains of the 227,000 square mile environment, its climates, and awe-inspiring animals.  In addition, there are also a few short ten-minute clips on the discs that show some of the behind-the-scenes footage of all the efforts and trouble that went in to capturing that special shot.  David Attenborough is at the narration helm and I could not think of a more fitting individual to assume this role.  His voice appropriately guides viewers over the river and through the woods (literally) as the incredible camera angels do the rest of the work.  It serves as a brilliant marriage of talents between those two aspects which equal one of the best region-specific (where life and earth covered the world) nature documentaries I have ever seen.  I would have liked a little more focus on some of the insects and amphibians of Madagascar, but marketing is key and lemurs are cute and cuddly.


If I could give this a 6, I would.  The clarity was absolutely uncanny, but should I be surprised?  This is Blu-ray and the BBC.  That’s like putting root beer and ice cream in the same glass…something good is bound to happen.  Visual stats include a VC-1 encode and 1.77:1 aspect ratio.  I cannot stress enough how impressive the quality looks here.  It is not only a reference-quality Blu-ray, but one I would use to show someone the visual capabilities of Blu-ray before consulting any other title out there.  I found zero grain, save for the infra-red footage, and ultimately felt like I was watching this entire film through a window, so clear that I will even go as far to say it was an open window…yes, the video is that good.  Everything from the veins in a leaf to the striations on a giant wasps’s abdomen, viewers will witness every single detail in ultra fine distinctness.  As for the burst of colors, there’s no shortage of that either, especially when some of the birds and chameleons get their share of screen time.  The creative camera shots such as panning over a tree-shrouded stream or high in a forest canopy only augment that which is already beautiful on this disc.


Where the video quality soared, so did the audio…almost…kind of.  There was one noticeable flaw with the audio, though it did not occur with a great deal of frequency.  There were moments when the background music overtook Attenborough’s dialogue.  Not only was this difficult to make out what he was saying, it was downright annoying.  It’s quite important to note that this only occurred about twice; the first was early on in disc 1.  On the bright side, Madagascar makes consistent use of the rear speakers which is something I usually only experience with action films, and even then, not with the regular use as occurred here.  There was always the distant chirping of tropical birds or the dripping of rain water behind you, just to name a few sounds, all of which were welcomed.  The bass was pretty much non-existent, though that’s to be expected with a nature film, however, its absence did not detract from the overall presentation.  The forward speakers spilled enough audible delivery in recognizable clarity to hang with some of the best Blu-ray recordings out there.  Had that little sound-related mishap been remedied that I mentioned earlier in this section, the audio would get a ‘5’.

Special Features  

The extras for Madagascar can be found on the second disc.  While there are only two extras, they do tally a fair amount of time so there’s an obvious depth of content as far as that is concerned.  The first featurette and shorter of the two is in standard definition.  The second is displayed in beautiful 1080i.

  • Lemurs of Madagascar – One woman documents her experience in following the plight and success of a pack of ring-tailed lemurs; specifically the moms in the group (38:58).
  • Attenborough and the Giant Egg – Fifty years ago, narrator David Attenborough first went to Madagascar to cover the island’s nature.  While there, a village boy presented him with large fragments of an eggshell.  When assembled, that egg shell was larger than a rugby ball.  Nicknamed the ‘elephant bird’, David Attenborough resumes his fascination with the now-extinct animal that once laid eggs of such a massive size (58:47).

Final Thoughts  

There are those discs I review in which I ponder back and forth their buying-worthiness.  This is not one of those I need to think on.  This is an undoubtable buy.  You’ve got the best possible narrator in the business, an amazing film crew, incredible landscapes, and let’s not forget the stars of the show, the animals.  The variety of species keeps one’s attention glued to the screen, as do the crisp details and flourishing colors.  Minus a little audio issue, this title (due out June 7th but available for pre-order now) provides roughly 3 hours of feature footage and over an hour and a half of extras.  Plus, the whole family can appreciate it while getting a better understanding of the place known…as Madagascar.








1 Response to “Madagascar (Blu-ray Review)”

  1. Sean Ferguson

    I’m not surprised to hear that the BBC did another great job on a series since their track record is exemplary. I missed this one somehow.