Mankind: The story of all of us Review

Documentary? Or entertainment? This series really blurs the lines.

If you can set up your enemy so they think one thing, while you do another thing, you’re going to gain an advantage on the battlefield.

The tactical equivalent of “ice-cream is cold,” and one of the many gems you’re going to come across in Mankind: The story of all of us.

Mankind: the story of all of us
The history channel tells us what I hoped everyone already knew.

If Richard “Mack” Machowicz talks to me like I’m an invalid one more time I’m going to tear his eye out and skull fuck him to death… Or at least I would, if he wasn’t an ex-navy seal, and would do a lot worse to me, if I even suggested it… Which I did… Leave me alone, Rich… I wasn’t aware that the History channel’s demographic were mentally challenged, which his interviews certainly imply, so it leads me to believe they are pandering. Pandering to a broader market of half-wit history buffs who really just want to tell their mates how messed up the Aztecs were.

To kick it off: An unforgiving planet…

Every episode starts by referring to Earth as an unforgiving planet. Wrong. Jupiter is an unforgiving planet, it’s mostly made of wind. Mercury is an unforgiving planet, it’s a million degrees and has the same name as a poison. Earth is the gentle caress of teen love. In the world of planetary alcoholism, Earth is a Bacardi Breezer.  If you were playing some kind of life-building video game and had to select a difficulty between easy and hard – Earth would be below Easy in the “I just like the pictures” category.

Now onto the review.

Cinematography

Has no place in documentaries! I’m just kidding. There’s nothing I love more than a rasping voice played over a bunch of LARPers fulfilling a lifelong dream. Seeing the action is brilliant. But when they take it to the point of slow motion sword swings, and drawn-out-tension-building… Just stop… In one scene they actually said that the chap was about to get his head lopped off, then played it out as if it was the crisis point at the end of a Statham film. I was waiting for the guy to snap the executioners hand in three places then somersault into a waiting helicopter. It didn’t happen, and I knew it wouldn’t. So what’s the point?

The CG was passable in places and laughable in others. All in all, Mankind: The story of all of us, was very unreliable. Sometimes it had me immersed, and other times it jarred me to the point of wondering whether it was a documentary or B-grade cinema.

In the world of documentaries, however, it is brilliant. By far the best I have seen. I particularly liked the their portrayal of Cortez; the sneaky Spanish bastard. So, for cinematography, it gets a solid 4 out of 5, simply because I haven’t seen a history docco done any better.

Content

First of all I think I should note my bitter hatred of historians who imply fact. History is one big detective story, and it pisses me off when theories are stated as anything but. Mankind: The story of all of us, is horrendous in this respect. The content is portrayed in a god-like manner, that insinuates that it is, without a shadow of a doubt; true. But it’s not. Most of the content in this series will change drastically should backward time-travel ever be invented… Shutup Stephen [you smartypants… I’ll take a moment to recommend Into the Universe, a very interesting and entertaining series].

There was a lot of “the greatest blah blah in the world,” “the strongest blah blah in the world.” It gets annoying. But, it is intended to be entertaining (I hope), so I guess that’s what people want, and with the budget I’m guessing, Manking: the story of all of us, had, it needed to make some coin.

All in all, it was interesting. I am not a history buff, but I do know a lot more about a broad range of eras than most, and I didn’t learn much… Sounds smug, but yeah, I knew it all before. One thing that I didn’t know, and had actually researched without avail was how they made metals back in the day. Removed ore from stone, and made steel, etc – Mankind: The story of all of us, answered this for me and I’m very appreciative.

Pros 

Cinematography – For a history documentary, it was awesome.

Entertainment – It was definitely that. Despite feeling like its target market was 14yr old boys, Mankind: The story of all of us, was entertaining… I watched all 12 hours of it after all.

Informative – Most definitely. It covered a lot of material in a relatively short space of time.

Cons

Every commentator – While I have no idea why Brian Williams was there, I’m glad he was. His silky voice made for a much better narrator then the actual narrator. For the most part, I felt like the commentators were pointless figures, put in to substantiate the series. While I’m sure there were a few occasions, I can’t actually remember them contributing anything that could not have simply been said by the narrator… Except Brian Williams, you legend amongst men.

Timeline – The way the series was structured was jarring. One minute they’re talking about crossbows, the next minute they’re firing cannons. I understand that they wanted to illustrate that the invention of a trigger would lead to rifles, but it was still annoying. I would have cut that bullshit out. People know there is a trigger on a gun, they don’t need to be told it.

Entertainment – A lot of the time, I felt they went overboard in trying to make the show entertainment. They tried to add tension to it, like there was a chance we’d actually go extinct……….. I’m not going to illustrate the stupidity in that, because it could actually be done. But, I was never immersed enough to care whether or not they characters lived or died, and knowing they’re dead rendered it pointless.

All in all; I give it 4/5 

It is an ambitious project and I’d say they pulled it off. I spent most of the time watching the 12 part series thinking “this is a wank” but at the end of the day; I watched it. It was interesting, in the same way an action movie is; it’s predictable, but it has pretty colours and loud noises.

For a history buff, it’s entertainment. For someone who doesn’t know Captain Cook from Captain Planet, it would be incredibly informative, and might just hold your attention.

My hat comes off to you, History Channel. While there was a lot that could be improved, it makes me excited about the future of history documentaries… No more will they be a greying old man in a trench coat, prattling on about the rise and fall of nobody cares.

Cortez

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