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Customer Review

154 of 161 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Balancing Information With Entertainment: An Ambitious Miniseries Sometimes Has More Style Than Substance, December 3, 2012
This review is from: Mankind: The Story of All of Us [Blu-ray] (Blu-ray)
For good or for bad, "Mankind: The Story Of All Of Us" is the quintessential History Channel miniseries. In twelve episodes that span the globe, the show has broad ambitions that sometimes provide interesting facts and sometimes merely spectacle. It's a glitzy effort that is loaded with dramatic recreations and CGI effects and oftentimes seems content to be more entertainment oriented than educational. As actual history, one can't really hope to boil down the rise of civilization across the world to a mere 9 hours (without commercials) but "Mankind" gives it a go with intermittent success. This is not a text book lesson or a college course, though, if you're looking for a classic presentation. This is an ADD whirlwind across various cultures and time frames hitting on subjects both vital and somewhat arbitrary. The episodes don't slow down for an in-depth analysis of any particular topic, but race across time jamming as much content as possible into each segment. Its focus, by its own description, is on "Big History."

Made by the creative forces behind the successful series "America: The Story of Us," this new docu-series is stretched across 12 distinct episodes and 3 discs (in both Blu-ray format or DVD) for a total of nine hours and twelve minutes. The Bonus Features include a random selection of additional footage, but nothing in these choices added much value content for me. The show, however, does look terrific in the hi-def Blu-ray transfer which makes the most of the recreations (which get bolder and more battle-centric as the series progresses).

The episodes are as follows (each approximately 46 minutes): (1) Inventors, (2) Iron Men, (3) Empires, (4) Warriors, (5) Plague, (6) Survivors, (7) New World, (8) Treasure, (9) Pioneers, (10) Revolutions, (11) Speed, and (12) New Frontiers.

If you are familiar with contemporary History Channel programming, you are more apt to know what to expect with "Mankind: The Story Of All Of Us." Sensationalized and over-the-top, the program can present even the most mundane topic in an overheated manner. From an intro that has a mummy opening its eyes (a dubious choice) to early episodes that set tasks like iron smelting to an electronic dance beat and slow motion video, it's all about the presentation. And as the opportunity to create bigger and more violent dramatic recreations becomes available, the show never hesitates to plunge right in. If you watch the History Channel, this undoubtedly won't surprise you. If, however, you are completely unfamiliar with the History series format, I might suggest sampling an episode before making the full investment. My guess, this will either really appeal to you or it will really not.

Josh Brolin does the heavy lifting as the narrator, really emphasizing the importance of each new development. He virtually gasps with breathy anticipation as each new subject is ever more riveting than the last! The show's expert commentators vary in credentials, but seem camera ready and eager to participate in the spectacle as well. They include military expert Richard Machowitz (Deadliest Warrier), Dr. Mehmet Oz, Ian Morris and Patrick Hunt (of Stanford), celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain, writer Sam Sheridan, Brian Williams (from NBC) and Jason Meigs (Popular Mechanics).

In the end, "Mankind: The Story Of All Of Us" is easy enough to enjoy as an entertainment program. But I don't know that it fully succeeds at its proposed goals. You want pure science and history, this isn't it. You want a glossy and well made intro to topics that might be of further interest to you, this might be an effective overview. What you get out of this one is directly proportional to what your expectations are going in. Overall, about 3 1/2 stars for me. KGHarris, 12/12.
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Tracked by 3 customers

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Showing 1-10 of 14 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Dec 4, 2012 6:14:22 PM PST
Thank you K. Harris for your thoughtful and extensive review. I agree. This is a great introduction to history that will hopefully propel people to look further into it. It is impossible to not have bias when you are covering the history of the world in 9 hours. I am happy to see that the producers of this may have listened to complaints about "America: The Story of Us". I love hip hop music but I really do not want to hear P. Diddy's commentary on this (even if he is knowledgeable). I particularly did not care for hearing Donald Trump's commentary on the nuances of history. For the most part, this installment seemed to rely on experts (academicians) instead of celebrities. Maybe there is hope for us after all!

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 16, 2012 5:35:23 PM PST
Girdwood says:
Hi ! I have seen this show in Brazil and I wonder if this blu-ray version also features the portuguese subtitles & spoken languages... I also wonder if this North-American version also features interviews with Pele, Fernando Henrique Cardoso (former brazilian president) and others... Amazon Product description sometimes lacks such information and only thanks to extensive reviews like yours we are able to better decide if it worths buying !

Posted on Dec 18, 2012 10:36:50 AM PST
Last edited by the author on Dec 18, 2012 10:38:13 AM PST
Wilkerson says:
In my opinion, the point is to attract as many people to watch and possibly retain as much of the information given. We've all been through some sort of history course and quite honestly it's usually dry and boring. Delivering our history is this fashion helps us not hinder us.

Posted on Dec 19, 2012 6:32:35 AM PST
More sizzle than substance for sure as well as typical revisionist history. When Brain Williams said something to the effect that the First Crusade (not mentioning that at least 4 of 7 were losses) was our most shameful moment in history, I couldn't take the documentary seriously. The Crusaders weren't exactly choirboys but they fought to reclaim land brutally taken by the Muslims.

When Ibin Sablan (sp.?) referred to the Vikings as barbarians or Brolin claimed that there was harmony in Jerusalem, enlightenment in the Islamic universities with numerous Islamic contributions to science and astronomy, I had to laugh. (Dhimmis maybe, but not Muslims). The same goes for the one-sided story of Belgian colonialism harvesting rubber in the Congo. Nothing was mentioned of how the Europeans set up governments, built schools, hospitals, roads and bridges; they only raped, pillaged and looted.

The dramatic recreations of battles had to be expensive. Maybe they should have spent more money on research?

Posted on Dec 28, 2012 9:37:04 PM PST
[Deleted by the author on Dec 30, 2012 10:56:19 PM PST]

Posted on Feb 1, 2013 11:33:20 AM PST
[Customers don't think this post adds to the discussion. Show post anyway. Show all unhelpful posts.]

In reply to an earlier post on Feb 25, 2013 5:19:38 PM PST
D. Krupski says:

I have to completely disagree with your comment as a whole. While I see what you are saying with Brian William's comment, you clearly don't have grasp at how bad colonial rule was for The Congo Free State. You need to read King Leopold's Ghost and perhaps then you will see why I am so upset with your comment.

In reply to an earlier post on Feb 26, 2013 1:04:26 PM PST
"Although slavery is never a good thing, the Trans Saharan and East African Mohammedan slave trades were infinitely more devastating, staggering and incomprehensible than their Christian colonial counterparts from Europe. Slavery has been institutionalized and sanctioned by Islamic doctrine for 14 centuries and still continues to this day.

Of the 11 million Atlantic slaves two-thirds were men. They were brought to the Americas over 3 centuries with 95% of them going to Central and So. America and only 5% to No. America. They had a 10% mortality rate while being transported. Most of them were involved in agricultural work and they were allowed to marry and raise families. Their descendants today are citizens in their respective countries.

Contrast that with the estimated 140+ million Africans with 80-90% of them dying in transit to the slaves markets. Their treatment was heinous not only by their owners but also by black Africans who converted to Islam. Two-thirds of these slaves were females who were used for sexual exploitation as concubines while the males were conscripted into military service. These accounts were derived from logs at slave ports, ship logs and documented eye witness accounts." -"The Koran Blogspot" by I.Q. al Rassooli.

There is a grave amount of ignorance on this subject especially by blacks, in general as well as Black Muslims. There is also much deceit by Arab Muslims on the issue of slavery. I would suggest you do some additional research on this subject and not rely on a single text such as "King Leopold's Ghost" which I am familiar with but have not read.

Obama may or may not be a Marxist or a Muslim but he is certainly another misguided anti-colonialist. That's why he will try at some point in his second term to raise the issue of reparations. And why in America? Because we have deeper pockets than any other nation.....for now, at least.

Posted on Mar 15, 2013 9:54:08 PM PDT
Patricia C. says:
What a great review. That was really helpful. Thanks for taking the time to submit this review!

Posted on Oct 13, 2014 7:13:36 AM PDT
tao_observer says:
Not to mention the series tends to cater to our societies appetite for violent programming. The show's expert commentators seem way too enthusiastic and awestruck about man's long and gory history of unconscious acts of violence for the sake of material gain and control. An entire series could also be made from a more peaceful perspective showing how humans overall have actually become more kind and compassionate through time.

I guess it is interesting the title includes uses the term "mankind" and not "humankind" hinting at the series's bias towards presenting acts associated with low-level male typology.
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