Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Journey of the Universe: An Epic Story of Cosmic, Earth and Human Transformation DVD Review

Reviewed by Allie Schembra
We discovered what no previous generation knew – the ways in which our galaxies and stars, planets and living organisms emerged within the vast drama of the universe. Journey of the Universe guides us through an elegant telling of this epic story, from the origins of life to our present challenges. Today, the survival of species and entire ecosystems depend upon the choices humans make. Weaving modern science with enduring wisdom from the world’s cultures, Journey of the Universe explores cosmic and Earth evolution as a profound process of creativity, connection and interdependence, and offers an opportunity to respond to the ecological and social challenges of our times.

Film (4 out of 5 stars)
Journey of the Universe is a look at how the creation of everything is related and interconnected. Narrating from the Greek Island of Samos, the birthplace of Pythagoras, storyteller Brian Swimme takes the viewer through the beginning of the universe to the present and into the future. Swimme tells us everything in the universe began with the stars. He explains the planets using different sized fruits and vegetables and discusses the makeup of the planets.

Swimme also discusses evolution and how animals evolved and adjusted to their surroundings. From sea creatures to land animals to the birds in the sky, each creature has taken on different evolutionary traits and those traits have continued evolving over the millions of years of life on Earth. Swimme tells the viewer about the evolution of eyes – how living creatures did not originally have eyes, but created them over millions of years.

As Swimme talks about humans, he tells the viewers how the written word evolved from pictures on stones to letters on paper. That communication continuously evolves and discusses the emotion and empathy animals have. Finally, Swimme discusses the impact humans have had on the world, from the melting ice caps to the changes in the air and the atmosphere.

Journey of the Universe is a really interesting documentary. I learned a lot during the 52 minute film. I’m not a science-y person – I may or may not have had to take biology two or three times in college – but the story and the narration gave examples and made everything easy to understand. The narrator, Brian Swimme, at times seemed a little over animated, but is a good story teller, nonetheless. He kept me interested and paying attention and I did not find my mind wandering at all. For me, that’s quite the accomplishment, since if it’s not Planet Earth, I tend to get bored with documentaries.
Video (4 out of 5 stars)
The wide screen 1.77:1 aspect ratio of Journey of the Universe was very good. Since the documentary takes place mostly outside, it was very bright and all the colors were sharp and natural. Underwater scenes were clear and the scenes depicting space were also good. Black coloring was a true black and even in the cave scenes, the picture was still easily seen.
Audio (4 out of 5 stars)
Journey of the Universe is presented in 2.0 Dolby Stereo Surround and 5.1 Dolby Digital Surround with English and Spanish subtitles. The sound was crisp and clear and not overwhelming with the background nature sounds. I could hear every word of the narration. Brian Swimme spoke clearly and articulately and the narration was blended well with the surroundings and background.
Extras (1/2 out of 5 stars)
I don’t know what I expected in the way of special features, but the only one (if you can call it that) is the trailer for the show and a link to the website to learn more. I think I was hoping for behind-the-scenes footage, more shots of the area in which they filmed or even a short featurette on the filming itself. I give this section a half of a star because I’m all for providing more information on the topics and after visiting the website (, I was much more interested. The website provide a ton of additional information and is well-worth visiting.
Summary (3 out of 5 stars)
I hate that this rating is so much lower than what it deserves. But the lack of special features really brought down the score and not even a great website can help fix that. Journey of the Universe is a wonderful documentary; it’s educational, interesting and has lovely photography. It’s not as nature-y as I normally prefer, but it’s definitely one I will keep in the rotation for when I want to learn more about life on Earth.

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