‘Our Planet 2’: A V.O. Disaster in Every Language

Nature just isn’t the same without the voices of Salma Hayek and Penelope Cruz

It’s past 2 a.m. I am distraught, chaotic thoughts running through my head like ghosts from a bad Blumhouse horror movie. A female voice takes me on a journey that has me on the edge of A Clockwork Orange’s Ludovico treatment. It is the cold and commanding voice of a Polish woman…narrating a documentary about wildlife (animals) on Our Planet.

What should be an earthy scene about billions of baby red crabs in Australia, turns into a dangerous, gloomy journey and something out of an early drunken draft written by Roland Emmerich: “Crab apocalypse” or something like that. Bottom line: the night is going very badly. The popcorn is over and I don’t know how else to curse Netflix for ruining what was supposed to be an orgiastic evening; a subtle mix of wonderful images of animal life everywhere on Earth and the sensual, hypnotic and exciting company of two of the most desirable women in the world: Salma Hayek and Penelope Cruz.

But Netflix has doomed its four-part docuseries Our Planet II because of an incomprehensible voiceover catastrophe, starting with the literally dying voice of Sir David Frederick Attenborough.

You can expect as much from a documentary about animal life on planet Earth as from a porn movie: the eternal repetition of scenes, movements, gasps, orgasms, rudeness, subtlety, where only the actors change: but in the end always we will see a lion waiting for the buffaloes to eat them; elephants suffering, penguins walking funny because, like all animals that live where ice used to abound, their lives have become a harrowing struggle to survive. But why did Our Planet 2, which already enjoys overwhelmingly rave reviews around the world, appall me so much?

It all started here

I hadn’t seen a nature documentary in a long time. Recently (yes, I was very late to the premiere; like years) while on the phone, I heard my lady friend laughing and feeling excited, caring and loving. I asked her what she was watching and she told me about Netflix’s Our Planet. So I was curious. what kind of program could cause those reactions? I went straight to the source, right to the episode she was watching. And here everything exploded: wonderful images of anchovies swimming as if it were a ceremonial waltz in the peace of the ocean…and with just that image I was hooked. But immediately a catastrophe occurred: the narrator’s voice pulled me out of the magic of the anchovies… it was a voice that disintegrated the ethereal  moment… the voice of Sir David Frederick Attenborough.

I chose to stay with the original voiceover in English (I don’t like listening to dubbing) and out of nowhere, I was in the middle of a gigantic, almost unimaginable plot of… Ants! My God!, ants everywhere planning something that was surely disastrous. I thought: forget about the Russians, forget about the crazy guy from North Korea, about ISIS, the day the ants turn against us, I hope humanity comes together for one last celebration because we will be no match for the fucking ants.

And at least we owe ourselves as a species one last good party before being devoured by all the ants that exist in every inch of this planet. The ants, man, the ants! Suddenly I felt that a lot of this terrifying effect had to do with David Attenborough’s voice. How to explain it clearly without hurting environmental sensitivities. At 97 years old, David Attenborough sounds like a dying Moses. His languid voice, full of recriminating rattles, was dooming humans to an ant apocalypse.

In a state of horror and fear, I searched for the narration in Spanish–for Latin America (here I must explain to American readers that there are two kinds of dubbing in Spanish: in Spain they only listen to dubbing in Spanish, that is, spoken by Spanish people with their accent. But for some reason, Hollywood studios and streaming platforms believe that all of us who live in dozens of countries in Latin America crave for… only Mexican voices). So: Language: click on Español (Latino)… In the name of all the prophets!… Salvation had arrived: An angel was whispering to me, calming me down… it was a silky voice, insinuously intoxicating and with that warmth and passion… with that rhythmic and sensual cadence and tone that It only characterizes us Latinos (and the occasional online sex operator)… that I felt a wave of peace and carnal-spiritual excitement because that voice was… Salma Hayek’s.


Suddenly, Salma helped me understand that the ants didn’t want to eat us! Her voice caressed my senses as if she was bathing me in chocolate syrup… ants, I knew, really are equivalent to Egyptians. They have built empires underground that will never, ever be equaled by us men. And just out of curiosity, I switched to Spanish dubbing (for Spain) and… Can you believe it? Penelope Cruz and her voice full of sexy fire now took me to the depths of the sea! Each of those eight episodes became an intimate, sensory experience, in a coming and going of the voices of Salma and Penelope… all that was left was to have them in person for the perfect fantasy to become reality. And so the poisonous frogs were cute, the most horrible insects seemed so friendly that I wanted to pet them… all thanks to these two goddesses. It was total ecstasy… and on June 14, I was ready for the second part of my unforgettable threesome. But…

 What happened to Salma and Penelope?

Night had come…Yes, I had to watch the 4 episodes of Our Planet II at night… Salma and Penelope… yes, and the animals too. However, I wanted to give David Attenborough one last vote of confidence, which lasted just over two minutes, during which time I came to two dramatic conclusions: I definitely don’t like the way this guy talks and…What would this docuseries be like if it someone like Scarlett Johansson narrated it?

So after two minutes of listening to David Attenborough’s now more worn and reproachful voice, I looked for salvation: my date with Salma and Penelope…except that in Our Planet II the goddesses are not there. And now, I felt the apocalypse coming.

Our Planet II has 4 episodes:

Chapter 1: World in Motion

Chapter 2: Following the Sun

Chapter 3: The Next Generation

Chapter 4: Freedom To Move.

But unlike the first season, which focused more on the beautiful and less on the sinister, Our Planet II brings the animal terror to astounding levels, largely thanks the spectacular shots that I have no idea how they achieved.

At 97, David Attenborough’s voice voice makes the planet seem like a butcher shop where no there is no mercy or beauty, because something horrible is always about to happen

But here we return to the problem. I looked up the dubs language by language. Salma and Penelope were gone, and no women except this Polish dominatrix are part of this season. The guy from Mexico seems to be trying to imitate David Attenborough, but with a similar tone to Homer Simpson. And the rest is a feast of insanity: the Hungarian sounds like he enjoys butchering a buffalo, the German sounds like a high school teacher who hates his job, the Japanese, well, sounds very Japanese, the South Korean sounds like the father who hates their children are K-Pop fans.

The narration fails every language. And this is not about judging, although I am, and of course David Attenborough is a man who has earned his stars, but at 97 his voice makes the planet seem like a butcher shop where no there is no mercy or beauty, because something horrible is always about to happen. And, well, that’s what we humans do… but is it really necessary to show this morbidity in the animal kingdom? It’s like humans are perfect and we’re laughing at animal atrocities.

One scene was my favorite. It takes place on Christmas Island in Australia. For two hundred thousand years, red crabs have emerged from the earth and made a pilgrimage to the beach; Inside the water, each crab releases approximately one hundred thousand eggs. Of course, two hundred thousand years ago there were no roads, sidewalks, sewers or anything that was an obstacle in the two kilometers that they must walk to the beach, which makes their odyssey something like seeing all the Indiana Jones movies together.

Then on Christmas night a truly breath-taking phenomenon occurs: baby crabs (as small as a pin) come out of the water fighting with all their might to make the same pilgrimage back to the forest from which their parents came. But they are so small that those two kilometers become a wild and almost endless journey.

Because just when he’s getting excited looking at the baby crabs and their cute little eyes, a monstrous figure appears. A mother crab that begins to devour all the baby crabs (there are billions) that it finds in its path. But they zoom in on this crab so intensely that it looks like a monster from a future fight against King Kong and Godzilla.

So why only male voices if we are presenting the majesty (supposed) of Our Planet?

The fracture between each dubbing detracts from what we see on screen. There’s a divorce (a bad one that will forever traumatize parents and children) between what someone like David Attenborough (his voice, I mean) narrates and the connection and empathy that many of the sequences generated in me that I know would have been different in terms of my perception with Salma or Penelope’s voices.

Netflix, why did you dare to ruin what could have been one of the best moments of my existence, this new nature trio with Salma and Penelope?



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Dr. Carlos Flores

Dr. Carlos Flores is a Venezuelan reporter and author of cult classics La moda del suicidio, Temporada Caníbal and Unisex. He's been editor-in-chief of several Venezuelan newspapers and magazines, a former Newsweek En Espanol correspondent, and contributor writer for HuffPost's Voces. Now that he's sick of being a broke reporter hunted by the Chavista regime, he's turned into a screenwriter and is developing a couple of series that will make him rich and even more famous.

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