Pros: entertaining, informative
Cons: just slightly unintentionally comical
In "Birth of Civilization: The Rise of Man" National Geographic has stayed a bit from their tried and true formula, and I think it works. The video is 90 minutes long, but I think it works. In general I think if you have an interest is ancient history then you will enjoy National Geographic's "Birth of Civilization: The Rise of Man".
"Birth of Civilization: The Rise of Man" is a single disc with a run time of approximately 90 minutes. Bonus materials include additional interviews and a photo gallery. National Geographic's "Birth of Civilization: The Rise of Man" was released in 2008.
Very often National Geographic will apply a common formula to videos, splitting time between modern day scientific discoveries and dramatic recreations of the past events. In the case of "Birth of Civilization: The Rise of Man" the video is nearly all dramatic recreation. The video explores the growth of mankind as a species from the the stone age forward. To do this they start with a group of nomadic hunter gatherers. This group stumbles upon something new, a group of humans settled in one place. By following a family, or more accurately a bloodline national geographic tells a fictional story that touches on the factual major events that lead to our dominance as a species. For example, staying in one place allowed people to spend less time searching for food. There were able to hunt and gather food and store it, freeing time for other things. Their shelters were more permanent and allowed for more protection from Mother Nature and predators. Staying in one place lead to cultivation of the land, farming. This allowed us to feed children better, allowing man to have more and have more of them survive. This story continues on for generations through the bronze age, the forming of cities and complex societies and onward.
The video does break for some short interviews with experts, but by and large this is a long dramatic recreation of a plausible fictional story that encompasses factual and probable events that tells the story of the birth of civilization.
"Birth of Civilization: The Rise of Man" is a very interesting video that does a lot of things right. It not only teaches the major events that brought about our civilization, but it puts them in context and lays them on an easy to understand time line. You might dismiss the idea of irrigation as simple, until you see how man discovered the idea and why it was so hard to come by. The humans clearly understand each other everywhere they go. The language they are speaking is either an existing language I don't recognize or some very good acting with a made up language. On the up-side "Birth of Civilization: The Rise of Man" is interesting, informative and thorough. On the down side? Well the dramatization is a bit campy. The dramatization is really just kind of cheesy, following the lives of characters with made up stone age sounding names and their condensed tribulations. There are plenty of things I wondered about that just weren't explained, like why the tattoos on some groups, or how can all the people always understand each other?
In all, "Birth of Civilization: The Rise of Man" is an enjoyable video if somewhat corny. You can expect to learn a lot and be entertained at the same time. However, the acting of stone age, bronze age, etc. man can be laughable. I recommend it to anyone interested in ancient history.
"Birth of Civilization: The Rise of Man" is something less than a home run from National Geographic video, but it is really quite good. At 90 minutes in length it will take some time to watch, but the story stays fresh and interesting the whole time. I thought the dramatic reenactments were just slightly humorous, but they told the story very effectively and managed to present facts in an entertaining fashion that might otherwise have been boring. There isn't much in the way of adult content but the subject matter itself may just be a bit too weighty for some children. I recommend "Birth of Civilization: The Rise of Man". Be prepared for a long show and be prepared to learn.