Host/Narrator Andrew Marr informs viewers immediately that currently the planet has approximately 20 megacities, or a city with a population of more than 10,000,000 people. Whether this definition has more to it or the Earth's population is truly growing at an astronomical rate, currently, there are 27 cities that meet this criteria by population alone. Semantics aside, "Megacities," a three-part documentary series, introduces viewers to the concept and many associated issues that have sprung up as a result of such dense population growth, in approximately one-hour installments. Shying away from the standard method of highlighting specific cities per episode in a broad "tourist-like" fashion, "Megacities" instead quite impressively utilizes portraits of each city to illuminate and reflect on vital issues that not only affect the residents of these impressive metropolises, but also to lesser extents the lives of any urban population.
While Marr doesn't cover every megacity over the course of the three-episodes, the five cities he journeys to aren't just chosen by their population. The cities chosen: Shanghai, Dhaka, Tokyo, Mexico City and London, truly do highlight a gamut of relevant issues from maintaining a sense of history and cultural identity in a quickly changing landscape, to basic issues such as overcrowding and the ensuing poverty. The segments highlighting Dhaka, Bangladesh are particularly sobering when contrasted against Tokyo, a city of more than double the population, but few of Dhaka's crucial problems which are essentially all results of poor economics and cultural poverty.
It's not all doom and gloom by any measure, as Marr contrasts the danger of Mexico City's alarming crime rate with the rich cultural history that helped form it into the megacity it is now known as. The bottom line is "Megacities" has no easy answer to the question that will obviously spring forth in viewers' minds: are megacities good or bad? The program is incredibly objective when it comes to the bigger issues and themes it presents; yes, there are moments when things subtly stray into soapbox territory, but these are easily forgiven because any rational person will agree that things like overcrowding, poverty, and conditions best described as squalor have no positive element to them. Hopefully once "Megacities" concludes its journey through the five diverse examples of this new, but increasingly frequent urban concept, viewers will take some time to think how this affects their own country if not their immediate area. "Megacities" is truly an admirable, fascinating look at a topic where cutting edge-technology, crime, culture, changing infrastructure, and a swath of other issues all converge to affect one key element: humanity.
The 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer isn't as rich in detail as one would hope for a program highlighting such a visual topic, however colors are strong and vibrant, contrast levels are quite natural, and compression is kept to a minimum as is digital noise/grain.
The English stereo audio track is perfectly serviceable for the format of the program. Marr's narration is never overpowering, but still crisp and dominant, even over the hustle and bustle going on around him and the generic atmospheric score. English SDH subtitles are included.
The only extras are a biography of Andrew Marr and a 12-page text-based supplementary booklet.
"Megacities" is a relatively brief, three-part series that provides an interesting, well-produced look at the changing landscape of the global urban environment. Host Andrew Marr is a trustworthy and engaging guide into five of these megacities and at the end of the day, the issues the program raise make it definitely worth seeing. Recommended.